Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

6

Tim Berne's Snakeoil: Shadow Man

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
When Tim Berne released his ECM debut, Snakeoil in 2012, it quickly garnered some of the best reviews of the saxophonist/composer's career, ending up on a number of year-end best of lists. And why not? With a group already together for a couple years (as Los Totopos), Snakeoil represented a major step forward for Berne, both compositionally and in terms of band concept. All-acoustic, Snakeoil also benefited from label head/producer Manfred Eicher's attention to detail and transparency. Snakeoil, in addition to being a musical high watermark, was Berne's best-sounding release to date.

Eicher wasn't present at the Shadow Man sessions, but Berne (successfully) aimed for the same clarity of sound, sharing production credit with longtime occasional collaborator and past ECM recording artist David Torn. Shadow Man capitalizes on significant road time clocked up as a result of Snakeoil's success, bringing the quartet even closer together, with an even greater shared sense of purpose and simpatico on a set that more successfully captures the group's live energy without losing any of the detail available in the studio.

It's that very simpatico that provides Berne the freedom to do something largely out of character: cover a piece by another composer, in this case Paul Motian, whose title track to Psalm (ECM, 1982) is included as a tribute to the late drummer/composer who played on one of Berne's earliest recordings, Songs and Rituals in Real Time (Empire, 1982). Still, despite being the set's sparest, most spacious track, it still reflects Snakeoil's intrinsic angularity. A duo with Matt Mitchell, Berne may carry the melody, but it's the pianist's skewed chordal support that brings the piece into the Snakeoil universe. Co-written with Big Satan/Science Friction/Bloodcount co-conspirator Marc Ducret,"Static" is almost the polar opposite, Ches Smith's drumming a cacophony of texture and complex pulse and Mitchell both responsive and suggestive, as Berne and clarinetist Oscar Noriega work in tandem, at times reaching for similarly screeching highs but, equally, exploring the low end of their instruments with equal aplomb, the complexion changing significantly when Smith moves from kit to vibraphone—an important new color for Snakeoil.

Three relatively short pieces introduce a 78-minute set where, in a time when the vinyl resurgence is encouraging a return to 40-minute albums, there's not a wasted note or idea. The balance of the six-composition program consists of three pieces ranging in length from 16 to 23 minutes, and if it appears that Snakeoil is developing a modus operandi, it's all about marrying knotty, idiosyncratic compositional constructs with unfettered freedom, moving from near- silence to some of Snakeoil's most flat-out extreme playing on "OC/DC," 23 marvelous minutes of mathematical precision and joyous noise.

That Berne was able to released Shadow Man so quickly after Snakeoil is a hearty endorsement from a label that rarely does so. Recorded in January, 2013 and released three months before the year is over, Shadow Man is an even more impressive outing from a quartet that, in a career highlighted by strong associations, may well be Berne's most impressively cohesive group yet.

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


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Rain or Shine CD/LP/Track Review Rain or Shine
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Copenhagen Live 1964 CD/LP/Track Review Copenhagen Live 1964
by John Sharpe
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Somewhere Glimmer CD/LP/Track Review Somewhere Glimmer
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Lattice CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by John Sharpe
Published: December 14, 2017
Read I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert CD/LP/Track Review I Think I’m Going To Eat Dessert
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 14, 2017
Read "Flow" CD/LP/Track Review Flow
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: November 20, 2017
Read "Shades Of Life" CD/LP/Track Review Shades Of Life
by James Nadal
Published: July 18, 2017
Read "In The Past" CD/LP/Track Review In The Past
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 2, 2017
Read "Avant-Garde Party Music" CD/LP/Track Review Avant-Garde Party Music
by Mark Corroto
Published: October 26, 2017
Read "Bringin' It" CD/LP/Track Review Bringin' It
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 8, 2017
Read "Ugly Beauty" CD/LP/Track Review Ugly Beauty
by Geno Thackara
Published: March 20, 2017

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!