John Butcher

Shooters and Bowlers

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Shooters and Bowlers is not a stellar album, but it remains a very good one, both for saxophonist John Butcher and drummer Gerry Hemingway. Released in October 2001, the music on this CD was recorded on two separate occasions in studios across the Atlantic in February and May 2000, a few months before Butcher recorded the seminal The Contest of Pleasures with Axel Dörner and Xavier Charles. Therefore it presents the saxophonist leaning more and more toward a sound event and breath-oriented esthetic. Hemingway also follows the less-is-more abstract route, a path he already visited with Thomas Lehn. Silence has an important role to play in these improvisations, along with quietness, listening, and sculpting. The two improvisers are working on a block of silence, usually nudging at it delicately even though a stronger blow can be necessary from time to time. They define a form, abstract yet compelling and as the listener moves around to see the other facets of the piece he/she never really knows what will be revealed. In "Shift," by far the longest piece on the CD, Butcher comes back to his more talkative, Evan Parker-inspired style of the early 1990s, but elsewhere he uses staccato notes, well-placed bursts of sounds, and long high-pitched tones. Hemingway also works from silence up (in this case a better image than "stripping down his playing"). His contribution on harmonica in "Hay" is amusing but nothing more (luckily, the track is short). He brings more to the music when playing vibraphone ("The Lightning Strike").

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