John Butcher & Mark Sanders: Tarab Cuts

LONDON Southbank Centre / Purcell Room
Belvedere Road


John Butcher’s new work Tarab Cuts has just been shortlisted as one of the year’s Contemporary Jazz Compositions in the 2014 British Composer Awards. 

This is particularly well-timed news, as John Butcher recently celebrated his 60th birthday on Saturday 25 October with a performance of Tarab Cuts in Barcelona – the work has also been played by John Butcher and Mark Sanders internationally at festivals including Holland Festival and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

‘In Arab culture, the merger between music and emotional transformation is epitomized by the concept of tarab.’ (Dr. A. J. Racy)

In 2011, John Butcher was commissioned to compose a short piece inspired by this concept, as part of the five-hour performance Visiting Tarab, conceived and programmed  by the Lebanese musician Tarek Atoui as a modern-day response to the classical Arabic music in the enormous private collection (7,000 78s from 1903-1950) of Kamal Kassar in Beirut.  John Butcher then expanded the work into a full concert presentation, and invited drummer Mark Sanders to join him.

The notion of tarab is rooted in a pre-1930s repertoire of Arabic classical music – Tarab Cuts takes its inspiration from here, but is not an attempt to copy this music. It is an interaction across decades and cultures that throws an intriguing light on the contemporary musical practice of Butcher and Sanders. A meeting of distant voices with their own, in pursuit of both common and unfamiliar ground.

On Monday 20 October, BBC Radio 3’s Jazz on 3 celebrated the birthdays of two great saxophonists – John Butcher’s 60th and Evan Parker’s 70th – both of them are playing the EFG London Jazz Festival this year.