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Tim Berne: Bloodcount Unwound

Glenn Astarita By

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Saxophonist extroadinaire Tim Berne has recently released a 3-CD set on his own label, Screwgun Records. Berne has been a leading proponent of the so called NYC "Downtown Scene" for many years; his vast recorded library stretches back to the late 1970's. Columbia records signed Berne many years ago in an attempt to diversify it's more or less conservative portfolio. Enjoying limited success with Columbia, Berne subsequently recorded several fantastic LP's for Soul Note and JMT records.

Berne studied under the late great Julius Hemphill, whose fiery attack, unorthodox phrasing and intriguing compositions are somewhat legendary. His Caos Totale band was a force of energy. His powerful tribute to the late Hemphill "Diminutive Mysteries" is now considered a classic. Since then, Berne has fronted "Bloodcount".

Bloodcount Unwound is their fourth and perhaps best recording. Bloodcount is Berne, Chris Speed (saxophones), Mike Formanek (bass) and the amazing young Jim Black on drums. These three CD's are live recordings of stints in Germany and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Guitarist Marc Ducret has either apparently left the band or wasn't available for this tour.

The intensity level here is monumental. Most of the cuts are long and develop at a rapid pace. Berne is clearly the bandleader. He prods, pushes and dictates the tempo. Young saxophonist Chris Speed is a perfect companion for Berne's energetic improvisations. Disk 1 is called "Where Only In It For The Food." Young Jim Black is everywhere on the kit; he shifts the tempo, provides the attack but never destroys the omni-present beat. His uncanny sense of timing and an unorthodox back beat keep the train moving at a mind-boggling pace, while monster bassist Micheal Formanek provides the current.

The soloing throughout these CD's never detract from the thematic developments. Berne's music tends to be angular yet fast paced. He's never complacent enough to stay with one motiff for a prolonged period of time. The Fan and An Average Daze are the titles for the other 2 disks. The cuts are basically long and complex.

This is not easy listening for the faint at heart (although, it is less avante than one might assume). Bloodcount Unwound is a series of startling "live" performances by this tight and extremely adventurous unit. No place to hide here. It's difficult music to perform with plenty of surprises for almost everyone. Word is, this is a limited edition set. Place your orders ASAP !

Title: Bloodcount Unwound | Year Released: 1997 | Record Label: Screwgun Records

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