JOHNNY BUTLER — New York Jazz Maverick Announces Third Album: ‘The Sunbather’ || Out 16 September


Photo by Jeremy Studdard Carroll // Design by Wes Richardson // costume by Allison Dyke

The follow-up to 2020’s critically acclaimed ‘Thirteen Dances’, the NYC saxophonist, technologist, dancer and composer returns with a radiant, radical new release.

Comprising 11 songs of his pioneering brand of cosmic jazz, Butler delivers a concept album of maverick instrumentals tied together by a cryptic central protagonist known only as ‘The Sunbather’. As Butler explains:

“The Sunbather does not soak in the sun, he lays in a bath of noise. The Sunbather is a dance, a film, a song, a person. He is me, of me, and not me at all.”

From songs that come alive in the heat of the noonday sun, to those that shiver in the shadows of its diminishing form; Butler delivers a record of extraordinary texture and blinding musicianship, with counterparts that revolve, change and respond with a mesmeric elegance.

Like its predecessor, ‘Thirteen Dances’, all of the songs on ‘The Sunbather’ were performed by Butler in single takes using just a tenor saxophone, a handful of electronic devices, breathing techniques, and body movement (with the exception of “It’s Fine” – which was performed on a Korg Prologue). All of the music was also performed live with no edits, no overdubs, no samples, no loops, and no pre-recorded materials.

Alive with a palpable sense of drama and movement, nine of the eleven songs here were initially written for a number of dance productions staged throughout 2021. “Spinning Wheel” was written for Sleepwalkers, a dance-theatre work presented at The Visionary in Mount Vision, New York with dancer-choreographers Michelle Thompson Ulerich and Caleb Patterson. “The Necklace” was composed for Warriors, which premiered at The Visionary with dancer-choreographers Gwendolyn Gussman and Xenia Mansour and lighting designer Alex Taylor. “Unatamam Seni”, “It’s Fine”, “Lost,” and “The Birdcage” were all written for HOLDTIGHT’s immersive production What Keeps You Going, which took place at The Cell Theatre in Manhattan. “The Alex Detector”, “Slow Motion”, and “Joker Family Reunion” were composed for performances in Brooklyn and Manhattan with Alex Oliva.

With cinematic qualities both fearsome and harrowing in their own ways, it may come as little surprise that the other two songs were composed for thrillers made in collaboration with the director Laurel Bear. The title track, “The Sunbather”, was originally written for a horror film of the same name, whereas “Trance Dance” was composed for the short film Intruder, which premiered at New York University’s Gallatin Arts Festival in April of last year.

With all songs written and performed by Johnny Butler, the album was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Julian Picado and Francisco Gonzalez in November-December 2021.

A work of an often searing beauty and intimidating presence that demands you to bask in its aura, ‘The Sunbather’ by Johnny Butler is released on Hi4head Records on 16th September.


1. Joker Family Reunion (4.15)

2. The Sunbather (6.27)

3. Spinning Wheel (3.00)

4. Slow Motion (3.54)

5. The Alex Detector (1.30)

6. Unatamam Seni (0.54)

7. The Necklace (3.11)

8. Trance Dance (5.25)

9. It’s Fine (6.50)

10. Lost (3.01)

11. The Birdcage (9.38)

Johnny Butler is a Brooklyn-based, Grammy-award winning saxophonist, recording artist, arranger, composer, dancer, and technologist. Over the years, he has performed, written, and recorded with artists including BeyoncéStevie WonderDonald Fagen (Steely Dan), Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule)  Wynton MarsalisThe Levon Helm BandTune-YardsSister Sparrow & The Dirty BirdsEscaper and his own prog-jazz outfit Scurvy, among others.

Butler released his debut album ‘HyperViolet’ in 2017, a sublime, expansive spiritual jazz-fusion masterpiece, the album was released by the London-based Hi4Head Records and was praised by The Wire as “just about the freshest thing you’ll hear all year”. In a change of direction, Butler returned with conceptual, cosmic jazz epic ‘Thirteen Dances’ a record that was hailed by The Sunday Times as “combining the subtle shifts of Steve Reich’s Variations for Winds, Strings and Keyboards, the inventiveness of Jon Hassell and Brian Eno’s Possible Musics and the texture of Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel… Gorgeous”. An artist who always moves far beyond the realms of expectation, Butler releases the third in this trilogy of releases, ‘The Sunbather’ in the Autumn of 2022.

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