|Horn_Bill is a collection of six reed players who play a sequence of solos on this two-CD set recorded in London‚s 291 Gallery in January 2005. The musician are English saxophonists: Nathaniel Catchpole, Seymour Wright, Lou Gare, John Butcher, Evan Parker (presenting in that order) with Berlin-based clarinetist Kai Fagaschinski the odd man out, appearing between Gare and Butcher.
The notes invoke the history of solo saxophone improvisation from Braxton‚s analytic 'For Alto' back to Coleman Hawkins‚ pioneering 'Picasso', even throwing in a previously published note from Bill Shoemaker that presses the history backward to include efforts from Gene Sedric and Serge Chaloff. You might add the intermediate efforts of Rollins and Dolphy to the list, but the English have had a special place in the hierarchy since the appearance of Parker's Saxophone Solos in 1975 and the very different work of Butcher in recent years.
The approaches taken are very different, though several emphasize the saxophone as mechanism vibrating reed and resonating metal tube with holes to be covered and uncovered. Oddly, that materialist bias often creates results that connect the inner workings of the human body (Cage‚s anecdote of the anechoic chamber) with the spirit and concentration of a temple. The relationship is apparent in tenor saxophonist Catchpole's opening 'Maurice Brinton', a powerful layering of sounds that uses contrasts of duration and tone (and sometimes intense cries) seemingly to test and measure the resources of the environment, seems to concern with sonics and layered textures will align him with Butcher, while Wright's approach to alto (on 'All Wright!') is radical even in this context, including blowing through the instrument's key holes, tapping the instrument, using it as a resonator for small electrical appliances. Lou Gare,a veteran of AMM-- takes the most traditional approach to the instrument on his 'Saxophony', his tenor reminiscent in this context of both Getz and Coltrane. A profoundly beautiful tone is matched with a tonal and scalar exploration of repeating, slowly swirled motifs that at one point suggest 'Lover Man'. Fagaschinski‚s two pieces are distinguished by the woody dryness of his clarinet sound in the midst of all this metal and by his interest in exploring almost inaudible high-pitched lines. Butcher's '291/5' ranges far and wide through the tenor's available timbres, including many that first appeared in his own repertoire of compounded split tones and layered sounds. Parker's „Solo for 'Hugh Davies' employs circular breathing to create the impression of a single elegiac exhalation for the recently deceased musician. While Butcher and Parker are by far the most familiar saxophone soloists in this company, the very nature of the performance highlights the significance of their work.
The two CDs present solo improvisation of a consistently high order, in part perhaps because this is so clearly an expression of a community of reed explorers.
Signal to Noise