Learn How

Help improve All About Jazz

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. For $20, we'll hide those pesky Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

195

Sten Sandell Trio plus John Butcher: Strokes

Nic Jones By

Sign in to view read count
Sten Sandell Trio plus John Butcher: Strokes Here's a paradox. This is a release which emphatically preaches the virtues of free improvisation yet it does so by means of stealth, an awareness of the infinite possibilities of light and shade, and the fashioning of music that's never less than acutely aware of the intrinsic value of silence and near-silence.



Over the course of two lengthy pieces and a relative snippet, this augmented trio sounds like anything but—such is the group's advanced level of integration. If Evan Parker and Lou Gare can be taken as the two British tenor sax players who have blazed the trail in free playing, it's clear that at this point in his career tenor saxophonist John Butcher owes little to either of them.



The fact that he doesn't could be as much down to dedication as anything else, and on "Study" he operates in a minimal vein entirely his own, working as much around Sten Standell's comparatively hyperactive piano as with it. Drummer Paal Nilssen-Love seems alert not only to every nuance of the music on this one, adding to the flow of the piece as he provides shade and color in a fundamentally astringent soundscape.



In their collective and fundamental lack of concern with established precedents, these players put down a marker for the untrammeled demands that freedom makes. Thus bassist Johan Berthling, on the same piece, flies in the face of convention even when Sandell reaches for the Cecil Taylor approach as he does at around the 22-minute mark. There's a whole lot more than mere iconoclasm at work here, and Berthling's broken lines seem to have the effect of bringing the group back from an uncertain precipice.



The opening of "Unsteady" finds the group expanding upon its electroacoustic palette through Sandell's use of electronics and Butcher's manipulation of feedback. As the piece progresses it becomes evident that the relation between the tempered note and musique concrète is another of the group's concerns.



On a less rarefied level it also serves notice of the fact that any notion of the working group with special guest variety is also irrelevant. This is fiercely integrated music, and even when Butcher summons up the spirit of Evan Parker's infinitely spiraling soprano sax lines the impression is no more than transitory, usurped by the demands of the group's singular operational credo.



Happily, the less than three minutes of "Steady" doesn't sound like a brief introduction to what this group does or indeed the ground it covers. Instead it finds the players working in territory more akin to free jazz, but in a manner that almost entirely invalidates the term. It's still a fundamental expression of musical freedom as such, and as such it's right in keeping with the rest of the programme.



It's occasions such as this, when musicians come together to produce something sublime, that make a reviewer's task the opposite of onerous.


Track Listing: Study; Unsteady; Steady.

Personnel: John Butcher: tenor sax, soprano sax, amplification, feedback; Sten Sandell: piano, voice, electronics; Johan Berthling: bass; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums, percussion.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read #knowingishalfthebattle CD/LP/Track Review #knowingishalfthebattle
by Mark F. Turner
Published: January 23, 2017
Read Live In Brooklyn CD/LP/Track Review Live In Brooklyn
by Roger Farbey
Published: January 23, 2017
Read King Of Xhosa CD/LP/Track Review King Of Xhosa
by James Nadal
Published: January 23, 2017
Read Blooming Tall Phlox CD/LP/Track Review Blooming Tall Phlox
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 23, 2017
Read Hear & Now CD/LP/Track Review Hear & Now
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 22, 2017
Read Known-Unknown CD/LP/Track Review Known-Unknown
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: January 22, 2017
Read "Until Your Throat Is Dry" CD/LP/Track Review Until Your Throat Is Dry
by John Sharpe
Published: September 29, 2016
Read "Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974" CD/LP/Track Review Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: December 23, 2016
Read "End Of Seas" CD/LP/Track Review End Of Seas
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 5, 2016
Read "Ask the Ages" CD/LP/Track Review Ask the Ages
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: February 16, 2016
Read "Natural Language" CD/LP/Track Review Natural Language
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: September 2, 2016
Read "Naija Rhythm Affair, NYC" CD/LP/Track Review Naija Rhythm Affair, NYC
by James Nadal
Published: July 12, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Get Jazz Near You via email!

Enjoy the convenience of receiving a comprehensive listing of jazz events in your area every Thursday. It's free!