John Butcher/Thomas Lehn/Matthew Shipp (UK/Germany/USA)
This trio’s 2016 disc, Tangle, on the British Fataka label is astonishing, one of the most exciting records of improvised music in recent years. There is a deeply satisfying tension-and-release that emerges from pianist Matthew Shipp’s insistent repetitions (which propose a sense of structure), saxophonist John Butcher’s unfettered extensions of that material (which both animate and stretch that structure), and analogue synthesist Thomas Lehn’s whirlwind timbral dance (which makes the whole thing utterly mysterious). These characterizations are of course simplifications, and each of these distinctive virtuosos ranges through the music in dazzling and often lyrical ways, each devoted to the activity group form-making with characteristic and complementary commitment and imagination. A special trio playing in North America for the first time. A state of the art.