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Tim Berne's Snakeoil: Shadow Man

Glenn Astarita By

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Track review of "Cornered (Duck)"

Alto saxophonist Tim Berne's Snakeoil is a group that bonds asymmetrical contours into the big picture, where many progressive jazz aficionados often expect the unexpected from this artist who radiates an antithesis to conventional norms. More of the gradual ascensions, tricky time signatures, fractured flows and odd-metered unison choruses come into play on Shadow Man. Berne's neural vibrato lines in tandem with his foil, clarinetist Oscar Noriega ride above complex rhythmic patterns, designed with changeable metrics and alternating discourses. Hence, they keep the listener on the edge with a composite based on discord and ominously crafted melodies.

The album closer "Cornered (Duck)" spans rush-hour like kinesis amid numerous highs and lows and intricately executed group involvement. The musicians probe, counter and elicit imagery that runs the gamut from contemplation to passionate discussions. Pianist Matt Mitchell moderates the flow via quiet passages, intimating the calm before another storm, followed by malleable woodwind lines by Berne and Noriega.

It's a rhythmic wonderland as the band shapes a geometrical storyline, abetted by drummer Ches Smith's slapping and punching drums hits, where Mitchell subsequently polarizes the body of sound and methodically raises the pitch. The piece fades into an abyss then regenerates with off-kilter yet regimented processes, emphasized by Berne's torrid soloing. Once again they soar to a zenith. Among other positive accolades, Snakeoil is a band defined by the musicians' distinctive styles cloaked in cunning artistic expressionism and heart- pumping compositions.


Track Listing: Son of Not So Sure; Static; Psalm; OC/DC; Socket; Cornered (Duck).

Personnel: Tim Berne: alto saxophone; Oscar Noriega: clarinet, bass clarinet; Matt Mitchell: piano, tack and Wurlitzer pianos; Ches Smith: drums, vibraphone, percussion.

Title: Shadow Man | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: ECM Records


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