334

Paraphrase: Pre-Emptive Denial

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Paraphrase: Pre-Emptive Denial What do you do for a release when your normal modus operandi is to play within a context of complex composed material? In the case of saxophonist Tim Berne, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Tom Rainey, the answer is to periodically convene a group called Paraphrase, whose purpose in life is to improvise without a safety net or advance planning. Paraphrase may not be a regular occurrence, but the three have played together so often—especially Berne and Rainey, who have intersected on all of Berne's projects since 1997—that they clearly share a deep musical understanding, making every performance special.

There are only two commercially available Paraphrase releases—Please Advise and Visitation Rites (both Screwgun, 1998)—but the group's liberal taping policy has resulted in many of its concerts being recorded. A May, 2005 show at John Zorn's The Stone club in New York is the source for Pre-Emptive Denial, an album of pure spontaneity that reveals how, even in a totally free context, the members of Paraphrase think compositionally. While the territory Paraphrase travels is diverse indeed, and its approach is not for the faint of heart, it does show that free music needn't lack purpose.

It wouldn't work, of course, unless the musicians were in a constant state of readiness, with ears wide open and minds unencumbered. The two 25-minute pieces are remarkable in just how responsive each player is to his surroundings—at times subtle, elsewhere more direct. But Paraphrase's clear purpose is to build a collective something from nothing. Berne is capable of wilder flights, but is invariably found trying to develop thematically. The tiniest motif becomes a repeated and ever-evolving phrase that leads logically to the next. While there's rarely a defined groove, neither does Rainey rely on his kit for solely textural purposes.

Both pieces run the gamut from bold assertion to delicate abstraction, but "Trading On All Fours leans more to the rambunctious side while "We Bow to Royalties is generally darker. "We Bow to Royalties begins with Berne's long, gentle notes intertwining with Gress' softly bowed bass—sometimes in close dissonance, elsewhere spread farther apart. Aiming to create structure from the ether, Berne slowly constructs melodies that, while not exactly lyrical, are strangely appealing. Equally, Rainey demonstrates his own distinct sense of architecture. His duet with Gress around the seven-minute mark ultimately shifts the trio's focus towards greater extremes, with the three coalescing into a firm groove around the twelve-minute mark, where Berne fleshes out his solo by expanding specific thematic conceits.

Perhaps there are too many free improvisers out there using the genre as an excuse to cover poor planning and lack of direction. Still, the best improvisers know that the most compelling free playing is where there's a story to be told, albeit one that may not even be evident to the players at the outset. Berne, Gress and Rainey are clearly imaginative storytellers, and these three always have something good to say to each other—and their listeners—in this vividly conversational narrative.

Visit Tim Berne and Drew Gress on the web.


Track Listing: Trading On All Fours; We Bow to Royalties.

Personnel: Tim Berne: alto saxophone; Drew Gress: bass; Tom Rainey: drums.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Screwgun Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read A Dark and Stormy Day CD/LP/Track Review A Dark and Stormy Day
by Dave Wayne
Published: March 1, 2017
Read Pocono Git-Down CD/LP/Track Review Pocono Git-Down
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 1, 2017
Read Rímur CD/LP/Track Review Rímur
by Henning Bolte
Published: March 1, 2017
Read Schönbrunn CD/LP/Track Review Schönbrunn
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 1, 2017
Read Northern Adventures CD/LP/Track Review Northern Adventures
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Collider CD/LP/Track Review Collider
by John Sharpe
Published: February 28, 2017
Read "Disappearing Day" CD/LP/Track Review Disappearing Day
by Edward Blanco
Published: August 9, 2016
Read "Koan" CD/LP/Track Review Koan
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 12, 2016
Read "Of The Night" CD/LP/Track Review Of The Night
by Budd Kopman
Published: October 30, 2016
Read "A Night Walking Through Mirrors" CD/LP/Track Review A Night Walking Through Mirrors
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 11, 2017
Read "Live In The South Bronx" CD/LP/Track Review Live In The South Bronx
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 31, 2016
Read "Unspoken" CD/LP/Track Review Unspoken
by Andrew Luhn
Published: October 9, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!