Downbeat, “Total Soloism”
“Solo performance is a paradox. It requires cojones, heightened self confidence and physical conditioning yet is as much about vulnerability and ritual self-sacrifice. Though a blatant form of outward artistic expression, it is peculiarly demanding of the intellect, a Cartesian musing, with the horn functioning as a brain tap.
After dabbling with resonances from John Coltrane and Miles Davis and enveloping his processed saxophone sound in cavernous reverb, Brooklyn-based Johnny Butler turns a polyphony of overdubbed horns (triggered by laptop) into Fritz Lang’s Metropolis machine on Solo.”
Review of SOLO in All About Jazz
“On any street corner or venue it’s possible to hear a musician playing solo saxophone, its reed-song beckoning down thoroughfares to anyone that will listen. But by putting a spin on things, it’s quite another matter to hear and see that horn wired into a laptop computer, as it provides multiphonic voices and looped patterns, fed back into music that is familiar yet ethereal. Enter saxophonist Johnny Butler’s Solo.”
“…the instrument is navigated through multiple threads and simultaneous accompaniment and solo parts. Butler takes advantage of these concepts via hardware and software to examine new contours, shapes and textures through his saxophone; to become a veritable one-man saxophone ensemble, weaving multiple horn patterns that coalesce and separate in real time without the use of overdubs or post-recording manipulation.”
Review of Fracture in All About Jazz
“Saxophonist Johnny Butler’s band Scurvy underscores close relationship between punk rock abandon and the freedom of improvised music while also incorporating ambitious compositional ideals found in both progressive rock and modern jazz. With a horn frontline of Butler and Ryan Snow on trombone and the rhythm section of viciously incisive guitarist Adam Caine, bassist Rus Wimbish and ace drummer Jason Nazary, there is great potential to juxtapose multiple sonic elements that would otherwise contrast wildly.” READ FULL ARTICLE
Time Out NY
“Saxist Johnny Butler, often heard fronting the band Scurvy, uses electronic loops to summon a remarkable array of textures, from uneasy drones to lush Ellingtonian romance. Butler’s new Solo disc comes off like the 21st-century equivalent of the World Saxphone Quartet.”
Knocks From the Underground
“Johnny Butler’s solo album is epically slow and intensely beautiful, the soundtrack to a science fiction film that makes the ambient, submerged mood of the music its highest priority. Performed by a lone saxophonist with a loop station, Butler stays out of the way of the sound: on “Cathedral,” lulled reverberations drift in and out of focus, while on “Katrina” Butler swoops over a bouncing, brooding, chorus.“Cathedral”’s cleansing and distorted tones overlap like the buildup of Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians,” presenting vague melodies like the rigid spires of a cathedral disappearing and reappearing through rushing water. “Katrina” is a well-presented, concise song, with saxophone functioning as melody and rhythm section. “Glitch” is indistinguishably live and mechanical. Butler introduces melodies one by one, looping them at different lengths to twist rhythmic feels. He swells these looped interludes to include more and more notes, ranges, timbres, and a melee of stuttering saxes.
His most effective pieces are the more ambient ones on the album, as they bring to light the perfect saxophone machine-sounds in a dramatic, slow, haunting atmosphere. “Eulogy” achieves this with a landscape of delay and a feedback-hounded simple, folkloric melody. Butler sounds like he’s calling out to the dead, or like bagpipes at the procession, marching slowly through a rainy graveyard. The tone is not bleak or hopeless, only tinged with sadness and spiritual solemnity. Johnny Butler’s solo album is an interaction with himself, yet still sounds lonely. The honesty depicted through these live performances is slow, electronic, and the effect is lingering.”
Something Else Reviews
“Cathedral,” explicitly inspired by Fripp’s “Cathedral Of Tears” (A Blessing Of Tears, 1995) is filled with spacey textures that fade in and out like a passing astral vessel, resembling synthesizers more than extemporaneously dubbed over saxophones. Resembling a bit like Jean-Luc Ponty’s “Eulogy For Oscar Romero,” Butler does a masterful job subtly applying more coating to his sonic paint job until the resulting mosaic sounds like a choir of saxophones. This song is about texture more than the other ones, and on that count, he has it down. “Katrina” is more traditional and organic. Over a simple but spiritual chart of saxes double or triple tracked, Butler adds a harmonizing line of saxes and then solos over it all with a sorrowful tone. “Glitch,” the one recorded before an audience, bleats like a low humming siren, using some clever start/stop looping techniques that coalesces the competing and countering noises into a coherent song. “Eulogy” emulates the sparse, lonely feel of “Cathedral,” but with tones that are harder than the sleek sounds of the prior tune….perfect for when a mind-blowing experience is called for and there’s less than half an hour available.”
“The 4 tracks range from an elegiac work (the long soft tones of “Cathedral”) to gospel-tinged (“Katrina”, which features a melodic fragment that sounds like “Cool, Cool Water”) to the rhythmical and sonic experiment that is “Glitch” to the mournful “Eulogy” (composed after George W. Bush’s re-election, written for a fallen soldier that the composer did not know but had read about in the paper.) The last piece is reminiscent of Joe Zawinul’s “In A Silent Way” in its long, contemplative, phrases. This music works because Butler doesn’t try to overwhelm the listener with too much sound. The melodies are well-drawn – even the funky “Glitch”, with its riff-driven structure, has a satisfying circular melody line. Rating: triple (points for audacity and invention.)”
Gapplegate Music Review
“Johnny Butler plays the alto sax. He heads up an interesting ensemble, Scurvy, which I cover in one of my other blogs (see www.gapplegate.com/musicalblog.htm). He also has developed a composition-performance style using his sax and live loops. An EP of this music has just been released, Johnny Butler Solo (no label listed). He gives a nod to Robert Fripp’s work with guitar and loops, and when you listen to the EP you can see he has taken the concept and come up with his own distinctive approach and sound.
There are four pieces on the disk, each different, each in its own way evocative, musically inspired and a pleasure to hear. He goes with the rhythmic possibilities of the loop format on one piece, the saxophone choir sound with (nice) soloing on top on another, and there are two that flesh out fully orchestral soundscape panoramas.
That all of the results develop out of Mr. Butler’s saxophone in a live setting is impressive. The results are stunning musically, which of course is what counts in the end. Johnny Butler creates music that shows a keen ear for honing in on good musical ideas and then deftly handling the loop technology to get some highly interesting sounds. Mr. Butler is a gas!”
“If students like their jazz with a side of tots, Feveband’s performance this Sunday at 9pm, with special guest saxophonist-composer Johnny Butler, OC ’06, just might hit the spot.
Described as “mind-blowing” by www. somethingelsereviews.com, Butler’s debut album, Solo features the saxophonist playing alongside his laptop, morphing the sound of the instrument into a cacophony if space-age phrases. All the while he maintains the grounded, viscerally emotive sound of the saxophone, widely considered to have the tone closest to the human voice of any instrument. Butler, who just completed a national tour to support Solo, will stop by The Feve with his laptop in tow. Ready to wow the audience with music that stretches the limits of jazz, he uses disjointed melodies to create harmonies on which to build additional melodies. Though Butler’s collaboration with Feveband is sure to please, listeners should make no mistake – Butler can, if necessary, effectively be his own band.
Butler’s technique is relatively unheard of in the jazz world, particularly for straight-ahead jazz musicians. AllAboutJazz.com described the looping of his horn through the laptop – which creates music that is both profoundly lonely and full of life – as “familiar, yet ethereal.” Indeed, the young saxophonist’s sound creates that uncanny effect of familiarity within something exotic. Fans of avant-garde musicians like saxophonist John Zorn may draw parallels to Butler’s music, but they will certainly not feel as if theyve heard it all before.
Solo features four original compositions by Butler, from the otherworldly “Cathedral” to the hauntingly space “Eulogy.” Despite his prevalent use of a laptop, the saxophonist-composer’s album was recorded live, in real time, without any subsequent overdubbing. For this reason, Butler’s music maintains a special status between jazz and electronic music, two genres that have had a relatively tumultuous relationship. Perhaps steadfastly straight-ahead trumpeter Wynton Marsalis wouldn’t take to Bulter’s performance, but that hasn’t stopped the saxophonist from playing prolifically in and around New York City since his graduation from Oberlin.
So on Sunday night, if you find yourself at The Feve with a basket of tots at your disposal, prepare yourself to hear music that tests the limits of jazz.”