Butcher/Edwards/Sanders

Last Dream of the Morning
Relative Pitch Records RPR 1056

Dominic Lash Quartet

Extremophile

Iluso Records IRCD 006

Two generations of high-quality British improvisers demonstrate on these CDs that the characteristic inventiveness of players drawn to the gene hasn’t lessened even if the country goes through political-existential crises like Brexit. Although the seven players involved are actually close in age, the British with their mania for classification have, more than improvisers from other countries, insisted on where in a chronology their improvisers fit. Thus Last Dream of the Morning by saxophonist John Butcher, bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders featured five tracks from designated second generation improvisers. Extremophile recorded a three month earlier in 2016 is deemed to be by a quartet of third-generation improvisers: reedist Ricardo Tejero, bassist Dominic Lash, percussionist Javier Carmona and Alex Ward on guitar and clarinet. Although the Spanish background of two of the quartet’s players may superficially mark a change, the largest difference between the dates is Ward’s instruments. Butcher/Edwards/Sanders specialize in cerebral, close-knit micro interactions. Forthright electric guitar interchanges define Extremophile in a contrasting fashion.

While Butcher has had to share the talents of the others with everyone from Evan Parker to the Remote Viewers, the tenor and soprano saxophonist, bassist and drummer have been close associates since the 1990s, in duo and trio formations. Using either horn Butcher’s expressive and distinctive sound melds effortlessly with drum rolls and string sweeps. The trio concepts become more abrasive and shredded in later tracks, with singular rim pings or rubbed strings often making distinctive showings. However the defining tracks are “Syphon” and “Sand Dance”. Pressing reed colorations skyward with subtle key motions, on the first tune, Butcher’s nasal l shills eventually find a doppelganger in Edwards’ treble string stretching. Turning to circular breathing the saxophonist is joined by similar string reverberations with Sanders’ dissociated pitter-patter serving as a counterweight. Nearly 18 minutes long, “Sand Dance” is not a descriptive title, but instead a demonstration of how many reed variables from diamond-hard to cottony smooth can be heard. As Butcher moves through tropes from tongue slaps and snarls to more measured vibrations, Edwards advances the narrative with looped strokes that sound like they’re being produced on an industrial strength rubber band, while Sanders creates unusual responses, stick sweeping on the ground and leading to a quiet interlude of loosened lugs and jacked-up string pressure. Finally the three combine into connective tremolo with each player’s contribution audible.

Lash, who has worked with Butcher, Carmona, who has played with John Russell, Tejero and Ward on clarinet, are proficient in the sort of inner-directed, small scope music they share with earlier generations of improvisers, and do so with skill here, But once Ward plugs in his electric, the temperature and temperament of Extremophile changes, In other words while a few of the shorter tunes could easily be slipped onto a1980s sp-called insect music disc, the band’s originality comes out when it plays with genre conventions. “Palpito” for instance begins with such barely there tones that a guitar strum or air forced through a saxophone can’t be ascertained. By the time drums kick in and mate with guitar flanges, a full-fledged essay in wah-wah sprints and buzzing extensions is front and centre. In the same way “Mr. S.B.” starts off with a walking bass line is joined by clanging cymbals and soon evolves into a timbral face off with Tejero on alto saxophone and Ward on guitar, before it fully embraces fusion. However, the guitar licks stay exciting, but moderated with the theme finally relaxing back to the bass intro. Two saxophone can be put to even better use as the band demonstrates on” Slailing” where horn-of-plenty richness from the reeds embrace both color and coldness and later a near-honking saxophone, guitar twangs and harder drumming cement the statement. Switching between his reeds, Tejero confirms that he can output irregular split tones and emotionally subtle notes in close proximity. But the main part of the narrative isn’t revealed until Lash’s melodic pluck join with hand taps from Ward’s guitar. As the saxophone tone ripens, the guitarist's lines become rockier and triple-speed legato. Eventually though the double bass undercurrent even bowed briefly at the finale, corrals the others into calmness and completion.

Experts in such scientific matters may have further opinions of what percentage of first, second, third –and is there a fourth? – designators of BritImprov are emphatically evident on each CD. Most would be content to describe them as good listens.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Extrenophile: 1. Puddle Ripple 2. Mr. S.B. 3. Fumeux Fume 4. Palpito 5. Unbeknownst 6. Slailing 7. Mixed, Mixed.

Personnel: Extremophile: Ricardo Tejero (alto saxophone and clarinet); Alex Ward (guitar and clarinet); Dominic Lash (bass) and Javier Carmona (drums and percussion)

Track Listing: Dream: 1. Lucid 2. Syphon 3. Sand Dance 4. Signal 5. Gridlocks

Personnel: John Butcher (tenor and soprano saxophones); John Edwards (bass) and Mark Sanders (drums)