The Whole Note – RED Trio + John Butcher – Summer Skyshift

By Ken Waxman

British soprano and tenor saxophonist John Butcher would likely name as his antecedents European stylists like Evan Parker and contemporary notated and minimalist music. But when paired with the Portuguese Red Trio – pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro, bassist Hernani Faustino and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini – on Summer Skyshift (Clean Feed CF 372 CD, the performance suggests a fantasy film in which mild-mannered types are transformed into superheroes. Syncopating at jet engine speeds with irregular vibration emanating from both of Butcher’s horns, congruent zealous string stretching and screeched percussion advance the parallels to the AEC or similar Mitchell ensembles. Playing with devastating power as he double and triple tongues, Butcher appears to be vacuuming up every tone from the atmosphere, then ejecting the outcome in a variety of shadings and pitches. With his timbres on the lower-pitched horn cramped and dissonant as a freeway at rush hour, he’s equally fierce on soprano, puffing and gargling timbres that twirl and twist as Pinheiro’s speedy playing creates resonating accompaniment. Faustino adds to the high-pressure narrative, contrasting his chunky string strums with Butcher’s tongue slaps that could levitate a bowling ball. Craggy and barbed, the extended final track is more adroitly cadenced. Ferrandini’s percussive smacks and sprawls plus equivalent intensity from the others’ strings and keys push Butcher’s initial flatline tone to passionate timbre-spewing. Like an Olympic competitor reaching the finish line, the high-strung exposition relaxes into downward piano chords and a bowed bass turn.


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