Though saxophonist John Butcher is not short on instrumental prowess, his primary assets lie in the realm of ideas. On Fixations, Butcher has rejected conventional jazz thinking (swing, melodicism, harmonic cycles) in favor of creating his own personal language of improvisation. As Butcher puts it in the liner notes, "...improvisation can only make sense when it is somehow connected to the hope of finding, spontaneously, some music you don't really know about beforehand."
So the pursuit of a new musical vocabulary and style dominates each solo saxophone exploration on Fixations. Butcher is quite eager to take a simple idea and gradually build it through time and space until it acquires special meaning. His gentle exhalations at the start of "Third Bottle," for example, hover at the extreme lower end of audibility. However, they gradually acquire texture and body until the bubbling froth assumes tonal character, then progresses to a bird-like timbre, then oscillates into labyrinthian note flurries that defy conventional rules of order.
The other improvisations on Fixations reflect a similar inspiration and spirit, though they differ dramatically in organization and tone. Butcher's sound (especially on the soprano saxophone) tends to be deliberate, understated, and delicate. Though he makes plenty use of extended techniques on this record, you'll find no extroverted Aylerisms here. Fixations is improvised solo chamber music, carefully measured and explored with an ear for coherence and lyricism. In light of the great volcanic explosiveness of many of today's free improvisers, John Butcher offers a reminder that subtlety has an equally important role to play in improvisation.