195

Sten Sandell Trio plus John Butcher: Strokes

Nic Jones By

Sign in to view read count
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.

Title: Strokes | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Dedication CD/LP/Track Review Dedication
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 21, 2017
Read Surface of Inscription CD/LP/Track Review Surface of Inscription
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 21, 2017
Read The Treasury Shows, Vol. 24 CD/LP/Track Review The Treasury Shows, Vol. 24
by Chris Mosey
Published: November 21, 2017
Read Aleka CD/LP/Track Review Aleka
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 21, 2017
Read Alto Gusto CD/LP/Track Review Alto Gusto
by Jack Bowers
Published: November 20, 2017
Read Flow CD/LP/Track Review Flow
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: November 20, 2017
Read "Umbrella Weather" CD/LP/Track Review Umbrella Weather
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 24, 2017
Read "Cross My Palm With Silver" CD/LP/Track Review Cross My Palm With Silver
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "High Time" CD/LP/Track Review High Time
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 26, 2017
Read "The Apple Of No" CD/LP/Track Review The Apple Of No
by Geno Thackara
Published: July 2, 2017
Read "The Groove Cubed" CD/LP/Track Review The Groove Cubed
by Geannine Reid
Published: October 29, 2017
Read "Alom Mola" CD/LP/Track Review Alom Mola
by John Eyles
Published: May 10, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Please support out sponsor