All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

82

Tim Berne: Snakeoil

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
Tim Berne's previous contributions on the ECM label—guitarist David Torn's Prezens (ECM, 2005) and bassist Michael Formanek's The Rub and Spare Change (ECM, 2009)—represent some of his best work as a sideman. The alto saxophonist's first ECM release as a leader, Snakeoil, not only represents Berne at his best, but also at his most accessible. Berne's quartet consists of outstanding players from the New York jazz scene, all of whom are attuned to Berne's complex free improvisational style of composing.

The thirteen-minute opener, "Simple City," is relatively tranquil compared to a piece that might have been at home on a Bloodcount or Caos Totale recording. That is not to say that the piece is predictable or lacks intricacy; it is simply more focused on its harmonic core without sacrificing spontaneity. Berne and clarinetist Oscar Noriega trade off impressively from the outset—also somewhat atypical, with greater emphasis, on other Berne recordings, on ensemble playing.

"Scanners," however, begins Snakeoil's transition into purer improvisational territory early on, with drummer Ches Smith incorporating gongs, congas and tympani to broaden the percussive landscape and hold the constantly shifting tempos together. The more overtly free "Spare Parts" serves as segue into Snakeoil's increasingly fiery second half. Pianist Matt Mitchell takes advantage of the opportunity to display his rhythmic power and angular style on "Yield," which he co-wrote with Berne. The two closing pieces—"Not Sure" and "Spectacle"—find the quartet immersed in uneven meters, with the players meeting up and breaking away at rapid intervals.

Berne's approach to improvisation isn't to internalize his creativity so that it becomes a private matter, beyond scrutiny. While he has never sought to explain himself musically, his blend of structure and abandon doesn't dispose of familiar themes altogether. It therefore leaves his music more open to individual interpretation. Berne is one of the most forward thinking and fearless composers in jazz and Snakeoil is unquestionably amongst his best recordings.

Track Listing: Simple City; Scanners; Spare Parts; Yield; Not Sure; Spectacle.

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

Title: Snakeoil | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: ECM Records

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
General Articles
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Incidentals

Incidentals

ECM Records
2017

buy
You’ve Been Watching Me

You’ve Been...

ECM Records
2015

buy
 

Hammered

Clean Feed Records
2013

buy
Shadow Man

Shadow Man

ECM Records
2013

buy
 

Small Places

JazzMa Records
2012

buy

Related Articles

Read Seymour Reads The Constitution! CD/LP/Track Review
Seymour Reads The Constitution!
by Doug Collette
Published: May 23, 2018
Read Colours of Sound CD/LP/Track Review
Colours of Sound
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 23, 2018
Read A Blast From The Past CD/LP/Track Review
A Blast From The Past
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 23, 2018
Read Rhapsody CD/LP/Track Review
Rhapsody
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 23, 2018
Read You're Driving Me Crazy CD/LP/Track Review
You're Driving Me Crazy
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 23, 2018
Read Dirt...And More Dirt CD/LP/Track Review
Dirt...And More Dirt
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 22, 2018
Read "Cosmic Language" CD/LP/Track Review Cosmic Language
by Chris May
Published: May 20, 2018
Read "Kanata" CD/LP/Track Review Kanata
by Chris Mosey
Published: May 5, 2018
Read "ANDINA: The Sound of the Peruvian Andes" CD/LP/Track Review ANDINA: The Sound of the Peruvian Andes
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: January 6, 2018
Read "Tag Book" CD/LP/Track Review Tag Book
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: November 19, 2017
Read "Carry Fire" CD/LP/Track Review Carry Fire
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 22, 2017
Read "Lucille" CD/LP/Track Review Lucille
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 8, 2017