The White Spot

The White Spot by Way Out Northwest.
Label Website: The White Spot

Way Out Northwest is John Butcher on tenor and soprano saxophone, Torsten Müller on contrabass, and Dylan van der Schyff on drums.

If you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you will know that John Butcher specializes particularly in coaxing sounds from his saxophones which are unconventional. “Extended Technique” is often a term bandied about in “classical music” circles for producing non-conventional sounds from an instrument.

In the case of The White Spot, you are about 10 minutes in before you hear something like a saxophone sound you might normally hear on a “Jazz” album. And it doesn’t last long. “Extended Technique” seems like an understatement when applied to someone, like Butcher, who has so pointedly made creating a whole language of expression around finding new sounds from his horns.

Torsten Müller’s often bowed technique is a great match for Butcher, forcing him to react with pitch, rather than just texture. They both bounce unusual sounds back and forth between the two of them, while van der Schyff kicks around what sounds like a toolbox with a hammer and couple bells in it.

So, The White Spot isn’t “easy listening” or “smooth jazz”. But, it makes so much sense when listened to on its own terms, you forget, “Oh right, Saxophonists don’t normally play like that,” until you get caught listening to it by a friend or family member who doesn’t have the context. And, like my Dad said when he found me listening to Captain Beefheart’s “Ice Cream for Crow” in my bedroom during high school, they say, quizzically, “You enjoy listening to this?”

And, like I said to my Dad, way back when, I say to you now, “Why, yes I do, quite a lot.”

#WayOutNorthwest #TheWhiteRoom #JohnButcher #TorstenMüller #DylanvanderSchyff #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

Steeped

Steeped by Forebrace.
Label Website: Steeped

If, like me, you’re a little sad that Massacre, Last Exit, and Material (the early years), are no longer making albums, Forebrace may be the answer to your prayers.

The Quartet of Alex Ward, clarinet; Roberto Sassi, guitar; Santiago Horro, bass; and Jem Doulton, drums, are fierce and fiery in ways that eminently remind me of the above mentioned bands, without being overly slavish in their imitation.

Ward has clearly spent some time figuring out how to transpose Zorn-like horn idioms to the clarinet. Sassi has some modern digital tricks up his sleeve, but his fire would not shame Sharrock. Horro has the free floating low end funk influenced bass sound of Lasswell down pat. And Doulton splits the difference between Shannon Jackson & Maher.

I always wonder why more young bands don’t play music influenced by those tremendous albums, and I always end up deciding that doing it well, as Forebrace do, must just be too hard. To get the hard core nonchalance of those albums down, and make them sound both easy and like your life depends on it, without getting caught up in pointless displays of musicianship… Well, I guess it is an unlikely combination. Or, as people probably said when Miles Davis came out with Bitches Brew, “Why on earth would such talented musicians make such a godawful racket?” (Though, the answer to that question is probably, “Miles had seen the money rock musicians were making with a “godawful racket” and wanted a piece of it”. But, that is beside the point.) In any case, I’m glad Forebrace are doing it, especially glad they are doing it for the joy of making a “godawful racket”.

#Forebrace #Steeped #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #AlexWard #RobertoSassi #SantiagoHorro #JemDoulton

Uncompahgre

Uncompahgre by Ben Goldberg and Kirk Knuffke.
Label Website: Uncompahgre

To get the curious title out of the way, the album (and songs) are all named after places in Colorado: Uncompahgre, Leadville, Granby, Carbondale, etc.

I was curious about this album of Cornet and Clarinet duets from Goldberg and Knuffke as I’d recently listened to two duo albums from Nate Wooley and Ken Vandermark, primarily Trumpet and Clarinet.

How would the Goldberg/Knuffke dynamic differ from the Wooley Vandermark dynamic?

And you would think two albums of, as we say, similar linear instruments playing duets, would be sort of similar. But the feel of the two (three, really) albums are completely different.

I guess part of it is both of the Vandermark/Wooley albums are live, while Uncompahgre is closely recorded in the studio where we can hear much more of the detail in the playing.

But most of it is Goldberg and Vandermark and Knuffke and Wooley are very different players, even though their instruments are similar.

Goldberg and Knuffke feel like they are still figuring out their relationship, while Vandermark and Wooley know what to expect from each other.

There is serious, tentative, energy in Uncompahgre, and on the whole a more serious tone, appropriate for an album theme based on a mountainous state. Goldberg leans a bit more towards classical and traditional jazz idioms than Vandermark. Knuffke, also, is a more traditional jazz player than Wooley.

There’s a little bit of New Orleans here and a fair bit of Thelonious Monk in the feel, but overall, while not that “out there”, Uncompahgre is a pretty deep record. I’ve listened a couple times and find hearing more of the little things in their individual playing and interactions is very interesting. Keeps me coming back for more.

#Uncompahgre #BenGoldeberg #KirkKnuffke #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #RelativePitchRecords

Last Dream of the Morning

Last Dream of the Morning by John Butcher / John Edwards / Mark Sanders.
Label Website: Last Dream of the Morning

John Butcher has come to be one of my favorite saxophonists recently. His ability to utilize musically the full range of sounds from the instrument is truly impressive. From breaths to clicks to squeaks, he does it all and he does it musically. As I’ve mentioned before, I especially enjoy that he seems to employ a bit of humor and whimsey in his playing. I’ve compared his sax playing in the past to The Clangers and I stand by that comparison.

His compatriots on this album, John Edwards on double bass and Mark Sanders on drums, are no slouches either in creative use of their instruments. Often I found myself leaning in and listening closely to identify which instrument was making which sound.

Lovely drone-ey bits punctuated by moments of excitement, and vice versa.

Just an all around enjoyable album for anyone who values creative artists expressing themselves through music.

#LastDreamOfTheMorning #JohnButcher #JohnEdwards #MarkSanders #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack. #RelativePitchRecords