Recorded on two separate dates in early 1998, The Scenic Route is saxophonist John Butcher, violinist Phil Durrant, and guitarist John Russell's third album as a trio, the previous one dating back to 1992. Most of the material on this CD (four of the five tracks) comes from a concert at the festival Musique Action. The last track, which is also the longest at 22 minutes, was recorded two months earlier at a London concert. This is typical British free improvisation: abstract, spasmodic, difficult. No emotional outbursts, no artifice: the three improvisers fight their respective instrument, trying to get unusual sounds out of it using only acoustic means (even in the case of Russell's guitar). Butcher leads the way throughout, his dexterity and highly personal vocabulary on soprano and tenor saxophones being the main source of inspiration here. "Climate Change" is a perfect example of what the less-is-more approach can produce. Of course, anyone impervious to the music of Derek Bailey, John Stevens, and Chris Burn (even Evan Parker shows more stamina than this trio) should steer clear of The Scenic Route. Others will find it a good free improv CD without surprises.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture