Tim Berne: The Deceptive 4—Live

Mark Corroto BY

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Tim Berne: The Deceptive 4—Live
The difference between disc one and disc two of Tim Berne's Snakeoil release The Deceptive 4, two live recordings made eight years apart, might be the same difference between Miles Davis' first and second great quintets. Where Davis' The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions (Prestige, 2006) with John Coltrane from 1955-56 are stellar, they lack the complex riskiness of his 1965 date, The Complete Live At The Plugged Nickel 1965 (Columbia, 1995) with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams.

The earlier of these two live recordings, when Berne had yet to christen this quartet with the moniker Snakeoil, was recorded in November 2009 at Roulette in New York. Not to confuse issues, it is disc two here. The band went on to release four titles for ECM Records plus the 2019 studio album The Fantastic Mrs. 10 (Intakt, 2020). Berne has added and subtracted guitarists Ryan Ferreira and Marc Ducret for two of the previous titles.

Which leaves us with this quartet. Let's call it Berne's second great quartet, after the longstanding Bloodcount with Chris Speed, Jim Black, and Michael Formanek. Like Bloodcount, Snakeoil is a vehicle where composition vies with improvisation for supremacy. He has found a most simpatico partner with pianist Matt Mitchell. Listening to him track the saxophonist on "Deception" before blasting off into his own solo, you grasp how the pianist has internalized this music. Berne's music always threatens to go off the rails, but it never does. Credit each of the musicians. Ches Smith (Marc Ribot, John Zorn, Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York) and Oscar Noriega (Endangered Blood, Kris Davis, Anthony Braxton), along with Mitchell as perfect exponents and interpreters. The music is often gnarly and complex, with the earlier session a bit more restrained than the 2017 Firehouse 12 recording. Highlights here are "Hemphill," dedicated to Julius Hemphill Berne's mentor and perhaps someone whose DNA has has been sequenced by the saxophonist, and "Moornoats," a joyride in a very fast and slippery stolen vehicle. The maneuvering of this, and all Berne's compositions are the gifts to the listener.

Track Listing

CD1: Perception; Moornoats; Seven; Deception. CD2: OCDC; Spare/Citta; Scanners; Hemphill.


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

Album information

Title: The Deceptive 4 - Live | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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