British sax player John Butcher, pianist Pat Thomas, double bas player Dominic Lash and drummer Steve Noble are brilliant masters of the art of the moment. They have collaborated in different formats over the years but Fathom documents the first performance of this quartet at London’s Mecca of improvised music, Café Oto in October 2021, when Lash celebrated the launch of the first three albums on his own Spoonhunt label.
This quartet is based on the classic jazz quartet format but there is very little that relates to the jazz legacy in the way this quartet acts. As can be expected, Fathom is nothing but a magnificent, free improvised performance. It is spiced with healthy doses of stimulating sonic contrasts and surprises, a risk-taking approach and a wise manner of building tension and releasing it. Obviously, Butcher. Thomas, Lash and Noble employ their personal breathing, bowing and percussive extended techniques, and all are gifted with idiosyncratic languages and know how to weave instant textures, rich with precise detail and timbral colors.
You can always gather so much from the way Butcher transforms abstract air into enigmatic sounds and carefully layered textures, or the breadth of Thomas’ references, and, obviously, the free but highly nuanced pulse of Lash and Noble. The quartet alternates constantly between powerful and intense dynamics to more sparse and poetic ones, never surrendering to familiar patterns and always sounding fresh and urgent and totally captivating. The cover artwork by London-based abstract painter MiHee Kim Magee corresponds beautifully with the free spirit of the music.
John Butcher (tenor saxophone, soprano saxophones), Pat Thomas (piano), Dominic Lash (double bass), Steve Noble (drums)