John Butcher’s resume goes back to the mid-eighties, mostly dabbling in free improvisation with like-minded folks, such as Gino Robair, Phil Durrant, and Jon Russell. Bell Trove Spools, however, is just Butcher and his sax.
While not without melody, the ten selections on this recording dabble in percolations, drones, chirps, other bird-like noises, and a bit of minimally-restrained blowing. While in some hands this approach might result in a slapped-together feel, Butcher instead lets his sax tell a story. A weird story, but one with structure and continuity nonetheless. Perhaps the best moments come when he shows his Evan Parker influences. But rather than sounding derivative, Butcher takes Parker’s multiphonics to new places.
Butcher earned his doctorate in theoretical physics 30 years ago, before leaving academia for music. Thus, it is not surprising that he brings intelligence, attention to detail, and innovation to his recordings.