RED trio + John Butcher | Empire | No Business Records

Rodrigo Pinheiro – piano | Hernani Faustino – double bass | Gabriel Ferrandini – drums and percussion | + John Butcher – tenor and soprano saxophone

Recorded April 6, 2010 at Namouche Studio Lisbon by Joaquim Monte. Mixed by John Butcher. Mastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios. Design by Oskaras Anosovas. Produced by RED trio and John Butcher. Executive production by Danas Mikailionis and Valerij Anosov

Tracklist Side A: 1. SUSTAINED  2. PACHYDERM | Tracklist Side B: 1. EMPIRE


made a stunning debut in 2010. In this second album they play with British music veteran John Butcher pushing musical boundaries to the new realms of gripping and exciting kingdom of free improvisation.

RED trio + John Butcher | Empire | no business records

John Butcher’s

work ranges through improvisation, his own compositions, multitracked saxophone pieces and explorations with feedback and extreme acoustics. Originally a physicist, he left academia in 1982, and has since collaborated with hundreds of musicians – including Derek Bailey, John Stevens, Gerry Hemingway, The EX, Gino Robair, Rhodri Davies, John Edwards, Toshimaru Nakamura, Eddie Prevost, John Russell, John Tilbury, Christian Marclay, Paal Nilssen-Love, Phil Minton and Steve Beresford.

He is well known as a soloist, recently exploring unusual site-specific acoustics, and has released seven CDs of solo saxophone music. He has toured and broadcast in Europe, Japan, North America and Australia, and was featured, playing solo, in the BBC TV programme Date with an Artist. His compositions include pieces for Polwechsel, the Australian Elision Ensemble, the American Rova Saxophone Quartet, Futurist Intonarumori and “somethingtobesaid” for the John Butcher Group.

Recent projects include Thermal with EX guitarist Andy Moor & Thomas Lehn, and the wind trio The Contest of Pleasures with Axel Dörner and Xavier Charles. He values playing in occasional encounters – ranging from large groups such as Butch Morris’ London Skyscraper and the EX Orkestra, to duo concerts with Otomo Yoshihide, Kevin Drumm, Fred Frith, Duck Baker, Matthew Shipp and Akio Suzuki. — Stuart Broomer in New York City Jazz Record

Empire (a limited-edition LP)

has Butcher appearing as a guest with a working band, the Lisbon- based RED Trio whose eponymous debut appeared in 2010. RED Trio works at developing long, continuous sounds. Its fundamental style is a dense weave of interactive ostinatos provided by pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro, the dark-toned, pulsing lines of bassist Hernani Faustino and the expansive polyrhythms of the brilliant young drummer Gabriel Ferrandini. It’s a potent energy field with strong links to New York free jazz and when the auditory smoke clears, the group is capable of sudden light, with Pinheiro especially luminous in the piano’s upper register. Butcher and the trio have toured together in Portugal and Spain and there’s a striking musical camaraderie here, bridging free jazz and free improvisation in an original way. The track “Pachyderm” opens into a striking soundscape, with bowed bass, scraped cymbals and piano innards intersecting with the air-click stream of Butcher’s soprano, an eerie dialogue that seems to expand the very space in which the music is made, stretching toward a new territory. The extended title track, the second side of the LP, continues the adventure, beginning in a very concentrated space of isolated taps and whirrs, then gradually assembling momentum and a sense of dread as Butcher’s tenor multiphonics and the trio’s fomenting energies come together. — Stuart Broomer in New York City Jazz Record

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8 thoughts on “RED trio + John Butcher | Empire | No Business Records

  1. By inviting English saxophonist John Butcher to join them in a Lisbon studio, the Portuguese Red Trio executed a stroke of genius. Together they stretch pianist Bill Evans’ democratic ethos to its logical conclusion: no-one leads, no-one follows, but paradoxically all four move as one, exploring timbre and mood across three collectively improvised cuts. The threesome’s eponymous 2010 Clean Feed debut garnered many critical plaudits and the augmented follow-up looks destined to achieve the same result. Such collaborations are not a one-off: they have previously supplemented the trio’s resources, having co-opted Americans trumpeter Nate Wooley and bass clarinetist Jason Stein in prior (unrecorded) meetings.

    At the keyboard, Rodrigo Pinheiro accentuates the percussive characteristics of his instrument, avoiding tonal hegemony, often delving around the innards to dampen the resonance. While he sounds most conventional when the reedman isn’t playing, even then his ringing arpeggios are likely to end unexpectedly in reiterated Morse code on muted strings.

    Butcher demonstrates breathtaking control of unconventional tonalities, trading in carefully frazzled sax gymnastics and controlled multiphonics, at one memorable juncture simultaneously evoking voices just beyond the edge of comprehension and a buzzing didgeridoo. Bassist Hernani Faustino meshes with the kitchen-sink-and-all drums of Gabriel Ferrandini to create an engaging rhythmic latticework. But he also adopts oblique strategies, his hornlike arco work adding a ghostly wailing presence.

    Butcher is totally absorbed into the idiosyncratic group conception. At the outset of “Pachyderm,” it resembles a demented jazz quartet, with the Englishman’s technique pushing his poised saxophone through a distorting prism, deconstructing the sound into constituent splintered shards and scratchy overtones. But in the quiet sections here and on the title track, extreme sensitivity characterizes the interaction. After an insistent passage of birdlike chirruping and whistles, the piece drifts into a dreamlike soundscape of scrapes, vibrations, drones and indeterminate noises, as if the instrumental sources are being distilled into their very essence. Pinheiro gets a piano interlude on “Empire” which sounds as if it is being played backwards, with sustained tones presaging a series of tumbling clipped notes. It’s only towards the conclusion that the first melody on the disc emerges, but even here the saxophonist’s lyrical musings are shot with overblown contortions. Wonderful music which shatters preconceptions.

  2. Although it may be fanciful to suggest that this is British saxophonist John Butcher’s Hard Rock record, his playing is certainly more voluble, raunchy and strident than on the majority of his recent sessions.

    It may be because on this three-track LP the master of cerebral understatement is matched up with a trio of Portuguese Gen Xes who in this context enliven the common piano-bass-drum trio with enough rough and physical textures to frighten fans that prefer impressionistic pastels. That’s rough, but not crude however, for pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro, bassist Hernani Faustino and percussionist Gabriel Ferrandini have demonstrated a sensitive interface on other discs.

    Besides touring the Iberian Peninsula with Butcher, the Lisbon-based trio members have a working knowledge of Rock; have played as a group with American avant trumpeter Nate Wooley; and individually worked with other anything-but-shy improvisers such as saxophonist John Zorn (Pinheiro), saxophonist Jon Irabagon, (Faustino) and cornetist Rob Mazurek (Ferrandini).

    Whatever it is, as early as the first track, Butcher lots loose with some thickly vibrating and splintering altissimo punctuation that`s a lot closer to 1960s Free Jazz expression than what he usually plays. Meanwhile Pinheiro, for one, spurs minimalism, instead studding his solos with swift soundboard echoes, internal string strumming and high-intensity chording. Similarly as the expositions are developed, there are times when slide-whistle-like shrilling is heard. With his saxophone mastery, Butcher could be adding an intense parallel line to his improvisations. Or, on the other hand, the screech could arise from Ferrandini’s percussion mastery, which includes hand-patting drags, rim shots and flams plus measured cymbal claps and stentorian thumps. Nonetheless it’s the pianist who is most percussive in his playing. Frequently tremolo and highly syncopated, his circular keyboard chording sometimes matches the saxophonist’s circular breathing. Other times he’ll focus on repeated, high-pitched key clicking or use pressure to expose the deepest vibrations from his instrument. For his part, Butcher stresses trills that are watery and murmuring at one point, yet ascend to staccato interstellar-space exaggerations at others. In a way odd man out, Faustino keeps time and stays out of the way.

    Exposing individual variants of note distension early on, the four-way communication reaches a climax of cumulative tension on the final and title track. With the bassist finally asserting himself with sul ponticello and col leno swipes and the percussionist’s mallet-driven chops providing the backdrop, the more-than-23-minute exposition bounds from Butcher to Pinheiro and back again. The pianist’s chromatic keyboard work takes in tremolo cadences in the instrument’s lowest register until he breaks free for friction-laden episodes of syncopated string strumming. Meantime the saxophonist blasts out juddering multiphonics, slurring, stuttering and splaying broken chords. In short order the nearly three-dimensional polyphony reaches a crescendo of drilling reed bites and nephritic honks matched with keyboard claps, clips and smacks until both are cut off and the narrative is completed by an isolated string pluck from Faustino.

    Likely to be a unique entry in both Butcher’s and the Red trio’s discographies, Empire is a wild ride that should be experienced by everyone.

  3. A second release by the trio catches them in the company of a british legend of free-improv John Butcher. This expanded version of a trio brings back the memories of their concert in Krakow where they were joined by Keir Neuringer, which is a good thing because that night was spectacular and this trio showed already that they can work great as a quartet.

    The RED trio’s music features (as they established on the self-titled debut cd; Clean Feed 2010) are dark, eerie, menacing almost as they create a mysterious mixture of shades, scraping sounds, echoes. This is music full of suspense, dramaturgy, a dark and mysterious tale with gripping narration that gradually drowns you. With the assistance of John Butcher they’re able to expand and strengthen all those qualities.

    The LP (yes, NoBusiness folks continue their romantic crusade against the odds) starts with “Sustained” that gets off the ground hesitantly as the musicians try out the terrain and search for a common ground but soon enough they get busy and cooking, with Butcher’s vibrato-laden tenor long notes creating the additional tension between the dense and rapid playing of the trio. A good warm up before the real meal.

    “Pachyderm” weighs slowly on you with a myriad of heavy sounds, bass strings slowly disturbed by the bow, so you can hear each vibration of the sound, whirls, clicks and all kinds of (un)natural sounds squeezed in a way out of the saxophone (Butcher’s control of his sound, no matter how distorted it is, absolutely amazes) and extensivley prepared piano, metallic, muted, percussive.

    The “Empire” occupies the entire B-side of the disc (23 and half minutes long) and is a stunning manifestation of explosive creativity and discipline (the ability to restrain, build, suspend and intensfy the tension instead of simply releasing it is possibly the greatest quality of this band). An expanded noire-narration, split in half by an angular piano solo, slow and grim at the beginning evolving into an amassed explosion of fiery and passionate playing, restless and tricky drumming, angrily struck bass, topped by Butcher’s flurry bird-like notes on soprano and gutt-wrenching distorted sounds and circular lines on tenor. Ater a long burning they gradually slow down, following together the round rhythmic and melodic figure that emerged, to end with the just the long lasting reverb of a single piano note.

    This music is not ‘pretty’ nor ‘nice’ but what it ‘lacks’ in appearance it makes in the substance and structure. Powerfull, gripping, thrilling, dark and seductive in its own intense way. The playing is fabulous, vigorous, wild, uninhibited. The interplay and the sense of direction is palpable. Abstact and dark, this music engages you completely. A brilliant effort by and for fearless minds.

  4. It is an interesting comment on the state of improvised music across Europe that Empire is performed by a Portuguese trio joined by an English saxophonist, released on a Lithuanian record label, pressed in Germany. Studio-recorded in Lisbon in April 2010, Empire has been released on 12″ vinyl in a limited edition, housed in a very appealing sleeve. The LP format provides full, rich sound that allows each note of every player to be heard clearly and distinctly.

    The threesome of pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro, bassist Hernani Faustino and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini has one previous CD release, RED Trio (Clean Feed, 2010). They do not play as a conventional piano trio, with a hierarchy of solo piano plus supporting rhythm section; instead, all three improvise simultaneously, complementing and mirroring each other to create an ever-shifting tapestry of sound in which the contributions of the individual instruments often become indistinguishable. It is a setup into which saxophonist John Butcher fits easily, sounding as if he has been playing with them for years; the foursome sounds like a quartet rather than a trio plus “guest.”

    From the start of the opening track, “Sustained,” the quartet’s sound echoes RED Trio, with the added element of Butcher’s saxophone. But the resulting music is not defined by Butcher conforming to the trio’s methodology or vice versa; instead, the music lies somewhere between that of Butcher and the trio, compatible with both, suiting and flowing easily from all four players. Contrary to the trio’s ethos, because of the nature of the saxophone’s tones, Butcher is largely distinguishable from the others. When he creates a series of sustained and fluctuating tones, they sit as a layer on top of the trio, sounding totally natural and in place, the context ideally showcasing his playing.

    The transition into the next track, “Pachyderm” is virtually seamless, although there is soon a noticeable shift in methodology, with the saxophone sounding more integrated into the trio as all four players create a fluctuating drone effect from overlapping sounds; Butcher is still clearly distinguishable, but sounds less on top, more inside. Pinheiro matches Butcher for energy and variety, the two complementing each other well as they engage in a dialogue.

    Turning the disc over, the title track is the album’s longest, a 23-minute tour de force, the length of which pushes the LP format to its limits. Beginning in relatively subdued fashion, it builds momentum imperceptibly across its length, with Butcher gradually becoming more inventive and garrulous. As before, the interactions between piano and saxophone are exemplary, with the two spurring each other on repeatedly, with Faustino’s interjections acting as punctuation.

    The music here is a successful combination of its elements, sure to be equally pleasing to aficionados of Butcher or RED trio. Butcher already has a considerable portfolio of occasional collaborators; on this evidence, RED trio should be added to it.

  5. When it’s a matter of new, outside free-jazz ensembles, not all that many can afford to stay together for a second go-round. The Red Trio have. Their first came out in 2010 on Clean Feed (see review from April 5, 2010). It was quite lively and showed much promise.

    They return with the vinyl-only release Empire (No Business NBLP 37) in a limited edition of 400. That is a good thing because this is some very well-executed outness. Rodrigo Pinheiro (piano), Hernani Faustino (bass) and Gabriel Ferrandini (drums and percussion) are joined this time out by tenor-soprano man John Butcher.

    The addition of Butcher adds another significant voice to the dialog. The three pieces find the augmented trio (quartet) in total control over the exuberant chaos they conjure up. Each player contributes his eloquent avant voice to an ever-shifting, pulsating mass of sensuous, energetic collage. This sort of free music is quite difficult to play well (in spite of what you might have heard). The four of them DO it well. They get the coloristic punctuations just right with a kind of total synchronism that can be thrilling to behold. This music does not swing in the conventional sense. But the ins and outs, the entrances and exits of each player when done right (as it is here) is its own sort of out-of-time swing. And they have that quality without exception.

    The Red Trio (and John Butcher) outdo themselves on this one. Immerse yourself in it and you will come away with a big smile on your face! Highly recommended.

  6. Il faut bien avouer que ce RED Trio augmenté de John Butcher n’est plus tout à fait le RED Trio. La rencontre, qui date d’avril 2010, a transformé la chose : c’était le moins que l’on pouvait attendre de la présence de Butcher sur cet Empire que publie ces jours-ci NoBusiness.

    La « chose » en question peinait – appréciation personnelle et, notons-le, différente de celle de Luc (ce qui peut arriver, foi d’Attraction terrestre !) – à convaincre vraiment l’année dernière sur Clean Feed. En Butcher, Rodrigo Pinheiro (piano), Hernani Faustino (contrebasse) et Gabriel Ferrandini (batterie), ont trouvé un partenaire-mentor. Au ténor puis au soprano, celui-ci fomente des salves tremblantes qui manquent aux trois hommes quand elles ont désertées le champ musical – et ce, malgré l’habileté de Faustino.

    Mais à quatre, les musiciens vont de balancement charriant des plaintes répétitives en atmosphères épaisses qui ne cessent de se développer en attirant à elles les volte-face du soprano ou les répétitions affolées (et bien plus convaincantes sur le morceau-titre) de Pinheiro. Comprendre alors que John Butcher évolue tel un oiseau en cage : mais un oiseau de feu qui cogne et emporte toutes structures enfin. Le RED Trio s’en remettra-t-il ?

  7. I was already sold to this piano trio from Portugal when they released their first album on Clean Feed two years ago, but now they’ve managed British avant saxophone player John Butcher to join them for a series of concerts, culminating in this fantastic recording.The Portuguese trio are Rodrigo Pinheiro on piano, Hernani Faustino on double bass, and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums and percussion.

    Whereas they created incredibly dark and ominous soundscapes on their first album, their sophomore effort is opened with John Butcher acting as the crowbar, literally tearing open the trio’s concept. The first track, “Sustained”, is the shortest and a kind of warming-up for what’s going to come.

    The real power is unleashed on the second piece, “Pachyderm”, which starts with eery sounds of extended techniques on piano, bass and drums, with Butcher playing high-toned soft oscillating phrases over it, sensitive and vulnerable, masterfully controlling the moaning timbre of his instrument. The overall tone becomes a little more lighthearted as the tempo picks up, gradually gaining more volume, becoming violent and angry, and when Butcher suddenly starts whistling on his sax, imitating birds like only he can do it, the trio quietens down, and the bird whistling slowly changes into otherworldly weeping, and as things move to a stage close to silence, all that is left is incredible tension, sustained tension, for minutes on end.

    The second side of the LP is the title track, another epic improvisation called “Empire”. The four musicians demonstrate the power of minimalism to start with,weaving their fragile sounds around the silence that reigns supreme, for over seven minutes, when the built-up tension does not get released, as you might have thought, but rather intensifies, especially because of Butcher’s incredible sense of holding back his breath when you expect him to blow his lungs out. Restraint and sonic control is one of the greatest assets of this band, resulting in a fantastic listening experience.

    I focused possibly too much on Butcher’s presence, and he’s without a doubt the most dominant voice on the album, yet the music is of course the RED trio’s collective achievement, and they stay close to the musical vision they created with their first album, dark, inventive and intense, with Butcher offering depth, contrast and adding to the already gloomy atmosphere.

    Not to be missed if you have a sense of adventure.

  8. The RED Trio is a free-jazz group based in Lisbon, made up of Rodrigo Pinheiro on piano, Hernani Faustino on bass and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums and percussion. For their second album they had the good fortune to welcome a special guest, British saxophonist John Butcher, a revered figure in the European free-improvisation scene. This collaboration works very well, through an album of increasingly lengthy tracks, the group melds its musical minds to collectively explore the far reaches of free-jazz and improvised music. On the first track, “Sustained,” they begin with an abstract probing of the musical realm, gaining speed and power from growling saxophone and strong drumming, then making way for a great free piano trio section. “Pachyderm” opens with long tones of saxophone over ominous sounding bowed bass, creating eerie, haunted tones.

    Butcher’s saxophone nibbles and pecks during a dialogue with Ferrandini’s percussion, before the band fills into a fast and exciting collective improvisation. The group builds an explosive and fascinating sound collage, with searing long tones of saxophone over an abstract backdrop. Smears of sound return the band to the ominous and foreboding feel of the beginning of the improvisation, and they conclude in a patient and thoughtful manner. Clocking in at twenty-three minutes, “Empire” is an epic that begins in a slow, spacey manner. Spare abstractions of sound begin to coalesce as the drums strengthen around bowed bass and saxophone accents.

    Butcher sounds fantastic here, building a buzzing and cacophonous sound that reverberates with a rough sandpaper like tone and culminates in ferocious free-jazz squawks. Pinheiro takes a strong unaccompanied piano solo with bass and drums building back in before Butcher caps an extraordinary performance with a mix of high-pitched bird like saxophone and lower toned blasts of air. The group all comes together to conclude the performance with a fast section of collective free improvisation. This was a very exciting and challenging album that was very rewarding. The presence of a veteran musician like Butcher was able to push the trio into new areas of exploration, and they in turn were able to offer a welcoming atmosphere for the saxophonist to shine.

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