Harvey Pekar's Jazz Times review of
Fixations & Points, Snags and Windings

Fixations (14) - John Butcher solo
Points, Snags and Windings - John Butcher & Dylan van der Schyff


Fixations (14) features material live from 1997 to 2000 on which John Butcher plays soprano and tenor saxes unaccompanied. Some of the pieces on the album, though improvised, resemble studies, in that various musical elements are stressed in them, like a particular extended technique or method of developing a line. Butcher's a skilled, original and creative artist who has developed a unique vocabulary of colors and textures. All of the tracks here have interesting aspects. Some, such as "Third Bottle" and "Last Bottle" have him combining unusual timbres and methods of construction. But Butcher is a melodic player with a nice sense of motivic development, and doesn't need unusual sonorities to create a stimulating performance, however, as his lyrical "Woodland Drift" indicates. Butcher plays in an unused railway station on "The Train and the Gate Part 1" and "Part 2" and the location gives the work extra resonance: you can sometimes hear trains moving along in the background, accompanying the saxophonist.

Butcher's duo album with percussionist Dylan van der Schyff, Points, Snags and Windings, is even better, partly because two men can produce a greater variety of colors and textures than one, and also because they seem to inspire each other to greater degrees of subtlety and intensity. Van der Schyff plays sensitively throughout and he knows when not to play. As for Butcher, yes, he creates a variety of sonorities, but his lines have substance as well. Points, Snags and Windings is very well realized, and a classic of its kind.

© Harvey Pekar/Jazz Times