U.K. saxophonist John Butcher is a lethal improviser in the Evan Parker tradition. Like Parker, he can build great tension-spiked soundscapes at hushed dynamic levels. As his fingers gallop across the keys and breath rushes through the horn's chamber without intonation, the artist's focus never fails. Determined to guide the music along its sinuous journey -- which has little to do with standard song form -- Butcher amasses an alluring intensity. And you better believe he lives up to his name. He shreds his quiet passages with a directness that startles, even when you know it's coming. No wonder the legendary John Stevens inducted the horn player into his Spontaneous Music Ensemble during the last years of his life. With an incisive attack and ferocious chops, Butcher represents the vanguard of contemporary European improv.
-- Sam Prestianni
John Butcher appears with Myles Boisen (guitar) and Gino Robair (drums) on Saturday, June 21, at 7:30 p.m. at Radio Valencia Cafe, 1199 Valencia (at 23rd Street). Tickets are $3; call 826-1199. Butcher also performs solo on Sunday, June 22, at 8:15 p.m. at Beanbender's, 2295 Shattuck (at Bancroft) in Berkeley. Tickets are $5; call 621-1967.