Experiments with a leaf
John Butcher and Andy Moor have shared a stage many times since their first collaboration in the trio Thermal with Thomas Lehn. Even though they hail from very different corners of improvised music, their musical horizons have meshed through the time into the distinctive duo that it is now.
“Experiments with a Leaf” is a live recording from October 2013 in Berne, Switzerland, where the duo was playing in a cathedral. The large natural echo in the great space somehow glued the sounds together without the music resorting to a wash of reverberated noise. On the contrary, the sound quality of these recordings bring to light the playing and listening skills of both players. As a duo, they have no agenda or pre-planned aesthetic: both musicians simply work with their wide and contrasting knowledge of sound and music, and their fine responsiveness to each other and to their surroundings. They make something that surprises themselves as much as their audience, never leaving one or the other behind.
Mostly of a more incendiary or frazzled nature, the five collaborative improvisations here between these two much respected figures in such worlds certainly ram home just how potent they can be still. John Butcher’s saxophones have over the years witnessed him collaborating with giants such as Derek Bailey, Phil Minton, Fred Frith and Eddie Prevost, amongst countless others, so it’s little wonder his earthy and earnest approach tends towards a playful yet uncompromising sensibility rarely melodic or sugar-coated. This provides the perfect counterpart to Andy Moor’s either batting out dangerous shards or attacking his strings like a hearty meal when famished, bound in between by sawing, rasping and picking at notes already hammered shapeless. Andy, of course, is a member of Dutch jazz-punk group, The Ex, plus also runs Unsounds and evidently has a keen ear for uneasy listening. Experiments with a Leaf triumphantly and defiantly compounds the latter point without compromising those flames of life at its very core. Incredible work. RJ. Progress report