81

Tim Berne: Snakeoil

Karl Ackermann By

Sign in to view read count
Tim Berne: Snakeoil 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.

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: ECM Records | Style: Modern Jazz


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2) CD/LP/Track Review TAI Fest #1 (Vol.1&2)
by Nicola Negri
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Goat Man & The House of the Dead CD/LP/Track Review Goat Man & The House of the Dead
by Dave Wayne
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by James Nadal
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Acceptance CD/LP/Track Review Acceptance
by Tyran Grillo
Published: February 26, 2017
Read "Long After Midnight" CD/LP/Track Review Long After Midnight
by Edward Blanco
Published: June 21, 2016
Read "Make The Changes" CD/LP/Track Review Make The Changes
by Karl Ackermann
Published: September 12, 2016
Read "Upward Spiral" CD/LP/Track Review Upward Spiral
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 19, 2016
Read "Suite Ellington" CD/LP/Track Review Suite Ellington
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 28, 2016
Read "Short Stories" CD/LP/Track Review Short Stories
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: November 3, 2016
Read "What was said" CD/LP/Track Review What was said
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 20, 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!