Clocking in at 15-and-a-half minutes, Richmond, Virginia-based quintet Butcher Brown’s Encore EP is shorter than some individual jazz solos, let alone tracks. Yet that tight space also packs in more intense and infectious music than some of those long solos. There are sumptuous grooves, killer improvisations, and even a wonderfully effective (if nonsensical) freestyle rap. All this and concision too.
Butcher’s mix of funk, hip-hop, R&B, and jazz means that they don’t center everything on solo improv. Encore features two short tracks—the leadoff, “VA Noir,” and “Aviation”—that are pure groove and mood. (Corey Fonville’s drumming has a glitchy pace that implies some improvisation, but the patterns within it are too precise.) Where the tunes are longer, there’s more room to solo: The irresistible stoner sway of “For My Love” yields bounties for guitarist Morgan Burrs and saxophonist Marcus “Tennishu” Tenney; the latter also has an impassioned feature on the feisty, fuzztone-bass-driven centerpiece “Truck Fump.”
His dual sax solos would already mark Tenney as the star of this leaderless band’s current show. Yet he also doubles himself on trumpet during “VA Noir,” and is the MC on the closing rap “Hair Grease.” While he insists that “the lyrics were made with precision, hand-crafted,” his flow has enough pauses and spontaneous rhythm to suggest otherwise. One hopes that a longer release is coming soon, as this small portion is like one of those appetizers that includes a single scallop. More, please!