Alto saxophonist Tim Berne describes himself as a perfectionist, a word that has "control" lurking just under its skin. So how does someone who's into control get comfortable going into a situation of spontaneous composition, where the unpredictable is the game plan?
Paraphrase, with drummer Tom Rainey, bassist Drew Gress, and Berne, got togther to perform live, and outside the confines of the more mapped out territory you hear on some of Berne's discs under his own name. Pre-Emptive Denialcomprised of two composed-on-the-fly 25-minute pieceswas recorded at The Stone in New York earlier this year.
"Trading on All Fours" lurches to life on a jumbled rhythm behind Berne's compact phrasings that get stated over and over again, with minor variations that evolve in a gathering tension over big, round, resonant drums and loping bass. There's not much swoop or soar in Berne's melodic attack, and the "release" side of things gets pushed back, and back, and when it surfaces the mode goes meditativewith the sax sounding almost flute-likeuntil the rhythm gradually cranks back up into high gear again, crescendoing into a screeching stop at the end.
"We Bow to Royalites" hums into existence on a gnawing drone, a hypnotic resonance, with Berne's sax floating around Gress's bowed bass, in a trance-like atmosphere until restlessnes starts to creep into Rainey's drums, drawing in the saxophone and bass, cranking up the tension like winding up a spring.
Pre-Emptive Denial, though spontaneously composed, doesn't sound chaotic or capricious; there's an order and control beneath the freedom, and the sound proves itself as compelling as Berne's more planned studio efforts. Maybe more so.
Personnel: Tim Berne: alto saxophone; Drew Gress: bass; Tom Rainey: drums.