REVIEW: John Butcher at 60 at Cafe Oto

Gino Robair and Adam Bohman at the John Butcher 60th
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved


John Butcher at 60
(Cafe Oto, 29th November 2014; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

The second of John Butcher's 60th birthday soirées at Cafe Oto was imbued with Butcher's characteristic spirit of adventure and his respect for the varied heritage of his own practice - rooted in jazz and travelling to ethereal, uncharted soundscapes. His musical co-adventurers invited for the occasion made for an evening of variety, surprises and spells of extraordinary imaginative and technical depth.

I caught the tail end of Butcher's opening set with bassists Dominic Lash and Guillaume Vitard which combined a flowing grace with threads of punctuated incident.

Percussionist, Gino Robair, over from San Francisco, and maverick artist-musician, Adam Bohman, immersed themselves in the inventive potential of table top exploration, pitching Bohman’s Tinguely-esque array of pulleys, springs and strings, activated mainly with the sawing of his violin bow, alongside Robairs's tiny analogue synth, hand crafted cymbal and minute, battery-powered insects skating across his drum kit. Robair and Bohman, sensitively reining in the possibilities, established a remarkable, at times humorous, dialogue that was encored by a lightly tapped, spacious discourse which had Robair, ever the master drummer, slipping in to bright, African polyrhythms.

To finish on another high, Butcher's trio with Berlin-based drummer Tony Buck (of The Necks) and pianist Magda Mayas, charted a path deep into a charmed acoustic territory. Butcher, alternating on saxes, smoothed the way with robust, fluid tenor phrasing and, late on, burst into extended ultra-high trills on soprano. Drawing out out harmonics, amplifying finger taps, playing with feedback, he added rich incident to the sound textures that Buck and Mayas built up with careful percussive layering and accents. Mayas was one of the revelations of the night. Reaching over the keyboard she lightly caressed the piano strings and used the scale of the grand's structure to evoke a sense of a liminal, abstract landscape with interventions that delicately transformed sounds with an underlying sense of beauty.

A warm and generous way to celebrate Butcher's presence as one of the most significant musicians on the scene today.

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