Johnny Butler does a bit of everything. He’s a Grammy-award winning saxophonist as well as an arranger, composer and dancer, amongst other things. He’s performed with and written for the likes of Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, Donald Fagen, Joe Lally and the list goes on. Thirteen Dances is his follow up to his last critically acclaimed album HyperViolet.
Terms like niche and specialist come to mind when listening to jazz-fusion. On the one hand Johnny Butler is an intensely talented musician with a CV to prove it, and on the other Thirteen Dances is more of an “experience” than an album. It is deserving of a serious listen, to sit back and enjoy rather than be played in the background, or worse on shuffle.
Have you ever described a piece of music you like as “celestial”? If so Johnny Butler will be right up your street. It can be difficult to ignore the hipster aura that follows jazz-fusion wherever it goes, but Thirteen Dances is simply a musical accomplishment. The collection of tracks was recorded in real time using only a saxophone and a handful of electronic devices without samples, loopers or overdubs which is worthy of praise in and of itself. It’s a balanced mix of electronic and jazz music.
It’s a fitting album for the coming hope of 2021. As much a performance as an album, Thirteen Dances would presumably be just as enjoyable as a live show, something that could finally be possible for audiences in the near future. Butler describes how he utilizes a wireless microphone to move with dancers onstage and the album has a dreamlike quality that would be engaging to watch as much as listen to.
Thirteen Dances is a genuine musical achievement that comes as no surprise given Butler’s experience and past work. Jazz isn’t exactly to everyone’s taste but for those who enjoy jazz-fusion then this will be a stand out album.