John Butcher and Matthew Shipp – At Oto + John Coxon, Evan Parker and Eddie Prévost – Cinema

These are the first releases on Fataka, a new label for improvised music.

John Butcher and Matthew Shipp – At Oto (Fataka 1)
John Butcher – soprano and tenor saxophones
Matthew Shipp – piano

The meeting between Matthew Shipp and John Butcher was recorded live at Cafe Oto on 14 February 2010, initially for broadcast on BBC radio.

It was apparently Shipp’s request that Butcher be invited to play during his Oto residency, yet stylistically the two aren’t obviously well matched. Where Shipp’s idiom is exteriority, bold sound-shapes and dramatic expressivity, Butcher’s is projected interiority, textural felicities, and thought manifest as sonic process. What both styles share is transformative rigour.

Butcher starts with two eight-minute soliloquies:  first “Curling/Charred” (on tenor), then “Mud/Hiss” (on soprano). Both pieces are descriptively titled. On the former you can practically hear Butcher’s breath birling through the horn’s brass tubing. On the latter, he crafts an etiolated melody from the coagulant sibilance of pressurised air, and later sounds a piping trill – flutters of cyclical breath crystallising as imitative birdsong.

On his own fifteen-minute solo, “Fundamental Field”, Shipp plays with uninhibited, forcefully rhythmic stridency, in running figures that sound at times like a loose variant of Conlon Nancarrow’s studies for player piano. His inimitable chordal detonations, fluorescent arabesques, and scampering runs are all present and correct.

The duo come together on a half-hour improvisation titled “Generative Grammar”. Initially attempting to detonate singularities via bold superimpositions framed with silence, they soon give this up to investigate a course of parallel (generative) development.

Shipp goads and chivvies with frequently glangorous combustions that he leavens with fleeting moments of introspective delicacy. Butcher flutters from one cloudburst to the next, carving sustain and decay into sound-shapes with his multifaceted saxophonics, only occasionally becoming truculent. Although the proposed new grammar never emerges, the attempt to reach accord despite a mutually tenacious preference for individuation is heroically compelling.

John Coxon, Evan Parker, Eddie Prévost – Cinema (Fataka 2)
John Coxon – electric guitar and prepared piano
Evan Parker – tenor saxophone
Eddie Prévost – percussion

Recorded live at The Cube, Bristol on 8 March 2008, this album’s unbroken 54:53 is also well titled. On “Cinema” this ad-hoc trio’s foley strategies create a latticework of hypnotic sonic detail that’s constantly shape-shifting and always in the moment.

At one point, Evan Parker’s sax riffles through a stream of gong-like prepared piano tones and sympathetic percussion; minutes later the sax pecks at notes eviscerated from John Coxon’s guitar, as they reverberate in grimy amplitude to the chime of Eddie Prévost’s bowed cymbals.

While Prévost has surprised audiences in other contexts with exuberantly direct drumming, here he plays texturally throughout, responding to Coxon’s lead. And this does seem to be very much Coxon’s date. The guitarist is is his element, and I don’t think I’ve heard him play with this much confidence or authority anywhere else.

Parker has been a longstanding colleague of Coxon’s, notably recording and touring with Spring Heel Jack in 2003, and in the following year Prévost recorded the Acoustic Trio album (Treader) with Coxon and Coxon’s partner in Spring Heel Jack, Ashley Wales.

Parker and Prévost, of course, have a lifetime of shared history. Of the three, Parker has undoubtedly the most readily identifiable sound. He contributes most effectively here by immersion and sublimation – going with the flow – but a long, splendid solo of fluttering, circumlocutory breath that irrupts near the improvisation’s end threatens to suck all the oxygen out of his partners’ playing. Their lines survive though, in glistering embers of scraped and bowed radiance that make for a surprisingly reflective conclusion.

Fatake have set themselves a high bar with this initial brace of releases. Both titles are produced as CDs in numbered editions of 500. The artwork for each is simple black type on grey card, with the individuating artwork reproduced above printed only on the inside.

Related Posts
Evan Parker, Matthew Wright & Toma Gouband: Trance Map – The Vortex, Sept 2012.
Wadada Leo Smith Guitar, Brass and Percussion Ensembles (feat. John Coxon) – Cafe Oto, August 2012.
Thomas Lehn with Tim Hodgkinson, Hannah Marshall, and Philipp Wachsmann, John Butcher and Roger Turner – Cafe Oto, June 2012.
John Tilbury and Marcus Schmickler + John Butcher – Cafe Oto, April 2012.

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