Stravinsky - The Rite Of Spring Part 1 (Motorik Recordings 2010)
More info and player at: http://www.myspace.com/stravinskyduo
Dylan Howe / Will Butterworth Duo: Stravinsky
Dylan Howe - drums
Will Butterworth - piano
'New collaboration from acclaimed drummer Howe and rising piano star Butterworth. The Rite of Spring and Firebird suite arranged and adapted for improvisation.'
Debut album: Stravinsky - The Rite Of Spring Part 1 (Motorik Recordings. MR1003)
Release date March 2010 (Proper Note Distribution)
Highly regarded London based drummer / bandleader Howe, often compared to Roy Haynes and Elvin Jones, follows on from his popular hard bop quintet ('the best neo-bop group in the country' - London Evening Standard) and his Bowie 'Berlin Trilogy' re-imagining with a new project displaying his skills in new adaptations of classic works.
'A kinetic conceptualiser' Coventry Telegraph; 'A superb player.' The Observer; 'Rightly acclaimed as one of the best drummers of his generation.' Ronnie Scott's; 'DH excels himself, inspired' Time Out; 'Immaculate, entrancing.' Jazzwise.
Howe grew up listening to Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, (it was played as intro music for concerts for his father's group Yes), and so the inspiration for this concept felt very natural. After meeting Butterworth, (described as 'precociously talented…plays with spacious and fractious beauty' Time Out), he knew hehad found the perfect foil for realising this idea.
Butterworth originally studied cello and comes from a family of classical musicians. His violinist father was a member of the English Chamber Orchestra and the critically acclaimed Dartington Trio. In 2007, Will released his debut album Will Butterworth (Music Chamber) - an album of classically influenced piano improvisations and arrangements of jazz standards, receiving excellent reviews: 'Promising young London pianist is as nimble fingered with his left hand as he is with his right in this contrapuntal solo effort informed by Ravel, Debussy and Monk.' (Jazzwise).
Throughout 2008 Howe and Butterworth had been practicing together as a duo and knew they had a very simpatico approach to improvisation. They wanted a new platform for their emerging piano/drum sound and began the process of learning and rearranging two of the most influential pieces of music of the last century.
After studying the scores and using their favourite recording, Leonard Bernstein's 1958 version, as the template, they took each section and began opening it up for jazz improvisation, distorting and subverting some parts and staying true to the score in others. The duo found a new melodic and rhythmic approach that melded American jazz sensibilities with the Russian folk roots of the original, whilst keeping Stravinsky's essence intact.
Their radical re-design of The Rite Of Spring and Firebird Suite has been well received by critics and audience alike (see below). After entrancing a capacity crowd at the Vortex in January 2010 the duo then took to the road for a mini tour during January and February.
They plan to record The Rite Of Spring Part 2 and Firebird Suite later in the year. A tour is planned for late 2011 featuring a special expanded line-up.
Recent quotes, reviews and notices on the project:
'Howe and Butterworth bring out the Russian folk roots of the original, and it's real sense of disjointed swing, while keeping that thrilling onrush that so upset the opening night audience in Paris in 1913…Together they grab this music by the scuff of the neck and totally control it. The result is intense, thrilling music-making…This is a bold, fresh adventure that should be widely applauded, and not just in the jazz community'. Simon Adams - Jazz Journal
'Fluently virtuosic explorations, consistently absorbing, occasionally downright mesmerising.' Chris Parker - The Vortex
'Superlative drummer/pianist duo reinterpreting Stravinsky's finest movements via freewheeling jazz.' Time Out
'Thrilling...packed with big gestures and catchy hooks. It's fresh and immediate and engaged the full house...digs out Igor's Slavic jazz soul without losing the work's essence.' John L Walters - The Guardian
'Some serious jazz damage… The "Introduction" and brief epiphanies thereafter are lovely… Can't be faulted for effort or ambition'. Phil Johnson - The Independent
'The Stravinsky Duo (WB and DH) simply two of the most thrilling musicians you can see in London, or anywhere. Mining the faultline where Stravinsky’s revolutionary classical bred chi met jazz explosion and rock insurrect, this Duo are HOT! Personally it was a salutory lesson for me in what music can do.' Gavin Martin - The Mirror / Family of Rock
'This intrepid duo bring intensity and virtuosity to their jazz explorations of the work of Igor Stravinsky. A fascinating and frequently spellbinding performance.' Ian Mann - thejazzmann.com
Jazz Journal review May 2010:
Stravinsky originally scored The Rite Of Spring for an unusually large orchestra of more than a 100 instruments, some of them rarely used in orchestral music and many of them operating in uncommon and uncomfortable registers. He also reworked the piece for four-handed piano, so the apparent oddity of this new piano and drums version - itself derived form that piano reduction - is not so strange after all. In fact it makes a lot of sense, as the original score is heavily rhythmic throughout, the sawing string section at times sounding like a drum orchestra.
Howe and Butterworth stay fairly true to that score but have opened it up for jazz improvisation. In so doing, they bring out the Russian folk roots of the original, and it's real sense of disjointed swing, while keeping that thrilling onrush that so upset the opening night audience in Paris in 1913. The renowned opening bassoon part is a natural for the piano, but the piece really comes alive when piano and drums alternate the insistent, stabbing chords of The Augurs Of Spring before developing a rolling momentum that surges forward for the rest of the piece.
With so much melodic content to relay, the piano has the hardest role, but Butterworth's classical background - and cello - playing - serve him well. Howe's response is to wrap his kit around the piece, enveloping it in a wash of percussion without ever resorting to unsubtle bombast. Together they grad this music by the scuff of the neck and totally control it. The result is intense, thrilling music-making. The second part of The Rite Of Spring and The Firebird Suite are to be recorded later in the year. This is a bold, fresh adventure that should be widely applauded, and not just in the jazz community. Simon Adams
Sunday Times album review: March 28 '10:
There’s a worrying dearth of memorable new tunes in jazz, which is all the more reason to welcome this audacious example of cross-pollination.
Dylan Howe (son of the Yes guitarist Steve Howe) is a cultured drummer who enjoys leaping into the unknown.
Taking on Stravinsky is as daunting a feat as anyone could imagine, yet his collaboration with the pianist Will Butterworth turns out to be a rewarding exercise in reducing complex ideas to the basics. Butterworth resists the temptation to overplay, and the result is a series of taut, ostinato-based sketches drawing on the folk motifs that originally inspired the composer. Howe himself listens intently, and never gets in his partner’s way. Clive Davis
Coventry Telegraph preview piece: Jan 15/10:
Stravinsky’s 1913 work is subjected to a syncopated dissection, accumulating a melancholic intensity as it works though its multiple “scenes.”
Howe is particularly impressive as a kinetic conceptualiser, constantly creating fresh platforms for his music, whether penning originals or embarking on unusual interpretative journeys.
The stance adopted by Howe and Butterworth is such that classical and jazz audiences will achieve fulfilment. The duo melds pre-scripted arrangements with fully-improvised stretches, travelling from pale transparency to fully-charging density. Recommended. Martin Longley
Jazzwise Feb '10 - album review:
The 32 year old pianist Edinburgh-born pianist Will Butterworth made a quiet splash with his ambitious yet very impressive solo piano debut in 2007. Destined for a career as a classical cellist. Butterworth improvised on the piano at a young age allowing him a personal expression he hadn't been able to find in his classical studies.
For this second CD he joins the competently versatile drummer Dylan Howe, who has a similar sense or adventure as Butterworth. Howe can switch from swinging his arse off Blue Note style one minute to a sombre reading of David Bowie's 1970's electronic phase next.
Together they turn to the classical canon with their reimagining of Stravinsky's revolutionary early twentieth century ballet The Rite Of Spring ((this is Part 1: Part 2 is on it's way later in the year). Thankfully, as is the case with Howe's Bowie project, there's no attempt to reframe the work in a more traditional setting. Instead the pianist introduces the works mayor folk based motifs and deconstructs them for piano improv, mainly with a propulsive left hand ostinati underlying right hand with classical music's dynamics that sometimes recalls Ethan Inverson of Keith Jarrett.
As each piece segues into the next Howe lends nicely understated support, intervening with percussive counterpoint and adding layers of polyrhythm. It's a stoical, monochromatic set that keeps it's healthy distance from the original.
Next to emphasizing its motifs, dissonances and primitive, ritualistic sense of rhythm, some subtle connections with jazz harmony and rhythm are also explored. It's a pretty absorbing reading and one that marks Butterworth as one of the more original young prospects of today's scene. Selwyn Harris
The Vortex, London
Royal Festival Hall Foyer
Queen Elisabeth Hall Foyer - Literature Festival 2009
Old Blue Last (with Ted Milton's Blurt), Shoreditch
Café Oto, Dalston
St. Johns Church, Notting Hill
Taylor Johns, Coventry
The Dystart Arms, Richmond
Jazz At the Fleece, Suffolk
Command House, Chatham
Assembly Rooms, Presteigne