Friday 15th JuneJune 16, 2012
Daylight is the name of a new CD on the Emanem label by the duo of John Butcher (tenor and soprano sax) and Mark Sanders (percussion). Now, John Butcher is right up there amongst my favourite saxophonist’s I enjoy watching/hearing live. Down the years I have seen/heard him in a number of different settings and groupings, and have heard him play in a variety of styles. Certainly my personal tastes lean towards his quieter, more spacious approach, perhaps with the use of feedback thrown in, but John is one of the few musicians that I can sit and listen to in busier, jazzier settings and still really enjoy what he does. I have watched Mark Sanders play about a dozen or so times down the years as well, though almost always in more energetic territory, and I have often wondered how he might sound if coaxed into playing far more minimally, his touch and timing so good that I wanted to hear him play in a less boisterous manner.
On Daylight there isn’t really anything truly minimal, and for the most part the pair fire off of each other into little flurries of detailed activity In a thoroughly traditional improv style, although the second piece here, titled Flicker and recorded down in Southampton in 2011 certainly allows a lot of breathing space in, with Sanders invoking some quiet, smokey moods through bowed metal and pattern drums and Butcher floating between almost melodic refrains and more sparsely scattered twittering, but there is still quite a bit happening. So while I would love one day to hear these two in a truly hushed setting, this CD is mostly a fine example of everyday rough and tumble free improvisation near its best. The music ebbs and flows as you expect it might, flickering in and out of dark corners and chattery foregrounds frequently, with, inevitably, the intertwining of sax and drums, the instant musical conversation being the real wonder here, the speed and agility of the pair to shift and nudge each other in a split second to pull everything together in real time to form the three instant compositions we are presented with here.
So yes, the music here is pretty much old school free improv. Its all about the discussion between two people, the communal act of creating together in the moment. Daylight makes no attempts to break new stylistic or conceptual ground. It is a recording of an improv duo doing what they do best, and doing it very well indeed. Its a real joy to put this CD on and just listen to two people shaping their sounds around one another, picturing the negative shapes in between, following strands to their conclusion. Improvised music in its older, talkative form, such as can be heard here is still a wonder to listen to when it is done well, and this CD is done very well indeed. The first track here, Ropelight, that takes up more than half of the album consists of a set I witnessed live at the Freedom of the City Festival back in 2011. On that day I had watched an afoul lot of improv played, much of it in a busier style, and still this duo stood out a mile as being better at what they do than anyone else on the bill, and the recordings here back this up. I don’t consider it to be a bad thing to be able to describe Daylight as a really solid, highly listenable free improv record. You know where you stand with it and it delivers everything it promises. Good stuff indeed.