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.

Album information

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

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Earth
Earth
Dave Liebman
Read Urban(e)
Urban(e)
Mike Fahie Jazz Orchestra
Read Hiding Place
Hiding Place
Mark Murphy, Folk Artist
Read The Truce
The Truce
Markus Reuter
Read Data Lords
Data Lords
Maria Schneider Orchestra
Read In Igma
In Igma
Pedro Melo Alves
Read Blood Moon
Blood Moon
Ingrid Laubrock + Kris Davis

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.