John Butcher

News from the Shed

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Released on John Butcher's own Acta label in 1989, News from the Shed was only the saxophonist's fourth full-length album, after Fonetiks (on Bead), Conceits, and Embers Live (the latter two on Acta), but the hallmarks of his style -- a mastery of multiphonics and a fondness for rough flutter-tonguing -- were already in place. His regular working trio, with guitarist John Russell and Phil Durrant (violin and electronics), was augmented for the occasion by trombonist Radu Malfatti and percussionist Paul Lovens. Malfatti's trombone playing was already showing signs of wanting to move away from the virtuoso acrobatics of his early period toward a more austere, minimalist style (a direction he has continued to pursue); the sparse lyricism of tracks like "Reading the River" and "Everything Stops for Tea" represents a departure from the muscular, action-packed style associated with much improvised music. Even bustling and chattery pieces like "Kickshaws" seem to leave room for meditation. Russell's spiky guitar flurries and Durrant's discreet but masterly violin touches are perfectly complemented by Lovens' pointillistic percussion, providing a shifting and subtle backdrop in front of which the wind instruments can stretch out. The result is group improvisation of the highest order, and the album remains one of the most satisfying and accomplished examples of the genre.

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