Johnny Butler

Solo (Self-released)
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Posted March 3, 2010 by Ken Shimamoto in Music

While solo saxophone recitals are a time-honored tradition in the avant-jazz field (think Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell), the addition of looping technology — long beloved of rock guitarists — is a relatively new wrinkle. Tenorman Johnny Butler is a New York-based Seattle expat and Oberlin grad who leads the King Crimson-oid prog-rock unit Scurvy, whose debut disc, Fracture, drops this spring on the British label Hi4Head.


lup_2Butler also donates his time to perform for hospital patients under the auspices of the nonprofit Musicians On Call. He started out using a Boss looper, graduated to an Echoplex, and now uses a laptop loaded with looping software to power his performances. On Solo, he uses the technology to create a compelling sonic environment.

The 24-minute disc consists of four pieces, each with some programmatic content. On the appropriately named “Cathedral,” waves of architectonic beauty wash over the listener, creating a stately and majestic structure. On “Katrina,” Butler harmonizes layers of contrapuntal backing, then overlays a lovely, lyrical lament with the same somber, elegiac feel that Coltrane brought to the similarly themed “Alabama.” The live-recorded “Glitch” is the most visceral and rhythmic part of the set. Butler interacts with his virtual self as though he were an army of Pharaoh Sanderses. “Eulogy,” dedicated to a soldier killed in Iraq, unfolds slowly, like a thicker-textured cousin of Miles Davis’ “In A Silent Way.” Spend some time with Solo, and you’ll find yourself hitting “Repeat” often enough to create another kind of loop. Cop via www.johnnybutler.com.


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