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Johnny Butler: Solo

Mark F. Turner By

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Johnny Butler: Solo On any street corner or venue it's possible to hear a musician playing solo saxophone, its reed-song beckoning down thoroughfares to anyone that will listen. But by putting a spin on things, it's quite another matter to hear and see that horn wired into a laptop computer, as it provides multiphonic voices and looped patterns, fed back into music that is familiar yet ethereal. Enter saxophonist Johnny Butler's Solo.

For Butler, a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory who has studied with the likes of Billy Hart and Vijay Iyer and works in a number for experimental groups, including his electric quintet called Scurvy, Solo shows a musician who is open to new possibilities.

The idea of loop-based music is more recognized with the guitar, as Butler cites the influence of King Crimson's Robert Fripp, where the instrument is navigated through multiple threads and simultaneous accompaniment and solo parts. Butler takes advantage of these concepts via hardware and software to examine new contours, shapes and textures through his saxophone; to become a veritable one-man saxophone ensemble, weaving multiple horn patterns that coalesce and separate in real time without the use of overdubs or post-recording manipulation.

The saxophone's resonance is almost unrecognizable in "Cathedral," a slow moving tide of elongated notes that are alien-like but also soothingly breathtaking. The sax ensemble surfaces on "Katrina," paying homage to John Coltrane and in remembrance of Hurricane Katrina, its mid-tempo procession soulful and reflective.

A clearer sense of Butler's process flow is heard in "Glitch" a live funk piece taken from one of his solo concerts. His fervent playing and quick adjustments in a number of loop patterns is quite fascinating to hear, if not visually witnessed, as the crowd applauses at the conclusion. Solo ends as intriguingly as it began with "Eulogy," a sonic work of symmetry. And therein lies the rub, as it ends after only four tracks. A very interesting, but all-too-brief ride. Butler proves that the possibilities of looped-based saxophone are definitely wide open.

Track Listing: Catherdral; Katrina, Glitch, Eulogy.

Personnel: Johnny Butler: saxophone, laptop.

Title: Solo | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Self Produced


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