This album is a good representation of the work of three leading improvisers, and at once Butcher’s hard-edged, vociferous playing grabs the attention. Free Of Ghosts may or may not refer to Albert Ayler, but it is certainly not free of the spirit of the great man’s legacy.
The musicians show a huge range of techniques and imagination, great rapport in a performance of varied and intense activity, whether in the exciting collective passages or in more subdued, meditative areas in which individuals are given prominence, the unifying support and interaction serving as a spontaneous conversation. Edwards’ bass takes centre stage, establishing itself with busy urgency before a bowed passage takes his ghostly ship creaking its way amongst Sanders’ sweeps and snaps, then urging Butcher to interject with long calls, coarse rasps and full toned blowing.
Curling Vine is a long piece – a walk through the tropical bird house, a conversation of catcalls and birdlike trills, a soundscape of individual cameos, existing separately but coming together at crucial moments, exploding, coalescing and taking the music forward. Edwards’ bass is plucked like a thumb piano, busily hammered with quick-fingered virtuosity, then bowed, negotiating a ground of coconut shells. It’s a band not afraid to suddenly change course; diversions are quickly and intuitively taken. Sanders’ sustained sounds roll off the snare, sweeping and snapping with minimum rebound into a labyrinth of percussion, whilst Butcher resumes his machine-gun of notes and staccato runs.
Spike Oil begins like a journey into the beyond, with whale sounds; then the pitch alters and Butcher’s flutter tonguing and growling leads before percussive textures and hard bass lines precede a melodic interlude.
This is a recording which effectively captures the immediacy of live performance – a mixture of restraint and eruptive, vibrant sound.
Free Of Ghosts; Curling Vine; Spike Oil (56.10)
John Butcher (ts, ss); John Edwards (b); Mark Sanders (pc). Café Oto, London, August 2018.