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Tim Berne's Snakeoil: The Fantastic Mrs. 10

Mike Jurkovic By

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Alto saxophonist Tim Berne has never met anything or anyone he doesn't instantly want to re-invent, invert, dismantle and polish into his own image. And no, it's not any kind of savior thing, messianic impulse or Dr. Stranglove fixation. He simply hears and sees things more offbeat, peculiar, and colorful, thank you very much.

So too does any configuration of Snakeoil, Berne's wiry, spidery and like-minded core of engineers. As a league onto themselves, bass clarinetist Oscar Noriega, drummer Ches Smith, pianist Matt Mitchell and, for the fabulous, The Fantastic Mrs. 10, guitarist Marc Durcet just outright refuse to follow the rules, veering and vibrating amid Berne's latest spiraling attempts to communicate to the world at large that... Hey!, it's darker than hell out there right now so let's have some fun at least.

Fun abounds on The Fantastic Mrs. 10 and it's a tangible rush. Right from the very beginning, Berne rings in the proceedings with the jaunty and wrangling title track that has starburst arpeggios leaping from every corner of the room. These five guys have obviously had it with the everyday slog of national existence and are intent, and intent might be an inadequate a word, on blowing off some steam. Perhaps we need an adjective like voracious or lustily intent. Either way, there are so many moving parts to the track and, for that matter, to the entirety of The Fantastic Mrs. 10 that you can't take your ears off it.

These guys have all mastered the Avenue C shell game but it's never to separate you from your tourist money or perpetuate fraud. That's small potatoes to these guys, especially Berne. No, Berne, along with Noriega, Mitchell, Smith and Durcet just like hiding things under other things (usually our perceptions and our frail dedication to them), then put it them through a spin cycle of their own making, eventually turning over one thing to reveal another somewhere else in time and space. It's a classic ruse and this one's a party as each track bounces off the other's inertia collides, mashes and forward we go.

All of the seven tracks are absolute non-stop modern mayhem but don't let that confuse you and don't take your ears off the clarity experienced at the epicenter. Lanky and limber, "Rolo" cuts and scrapes, salves and soothes. Durcet in particular is having a grand time, sparring with Mitchell or whoever else feels like going the distance. "Surface Noise" is anything but. "Dear Friend," written by the lateJulius Hemphill, Berne mentor and co-founder of the World Saxophone Quartet, opens with quiet bells that melt into a melodious group prayer. Coy duets meld into animated groupthink and vice versa. Like all the polar exhilaration of being stuck at the top of the ferris wheel with the city aglow beneath you and a storm dead ahead, The Fantastic Mrs. 10 is a mind game if ever there was one.

Track Listing

Fantastic Mrs.10; Surface Noise; Rolo; Dear Friend; The Amazing Mr. 7; Third Option; Rose Colored Assive.


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

Album information

Title: The Fantastic Mrs. 10 | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Intakt Records



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