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From the opening salvo of "Van Gundy's Retreat," it's obvious that Tim Berne's Science Friction ensemble will take no prisoners during this performance, recorded live in Switzerland on April 12th, 2003. Along with his alto saxophone, Berne's group consists of electric guitar, Fender Rhodes-fueled electronics, and drums. This instrumental configuration opens up worlds of new and old possibilities simultaneously. The individuals who comprise the ensemble can collectively hold the compositional ideas of each piece together while a player deconstructs the threads that hold things together. This makes for a very interesting and organic music process where composition both exists and non-exists concurrently.
This double disc documents one of the finest examples of the current creative hurdle of incorporating traditional elements of jazz (i.e. solos, harmony, swing, and form) with more recent directions in music in the form of electronica. Craig Taborn's conception and integration of laptop electronics combined with the more traditional Fender Rhodes sound is creative and damn inspiring. He and guitarist Ducret share the ability to create harmonies for the band that serve as a solid foundation for others' improvisation, while being ghostly and ephemeral at the same time. Ducret's guitar playing is exciting and raw as he uncovers personal ways to approach the instrument both as a soloist and as a member of a tight ensemble.
Tim Berne continues to expand and develop his oeuvre and mature as an artist. The integration of his angular melodic style fits flawlessly within the context of this ensemble's voice. It's interesting how producer David Torn has handled the alto horn in this context as well, discovering subtle ways to help blend Berne's tart tone into the overall group sound. Berne has written some tough, tricky music and has put together a band that can put fire and soul into the forms he's created, in the process transforming those forms into beautiful modern music.
Highly recommended to modern jazz fans, especially those interested in exploring new ways of developing ensemble relationships.
Jazz is a creative explosion of individual freedom and communication.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was a kid. My father had a music store.
The best live performance I ever attended was Kenny Garrett in Harlem, New York.
The first jazz record I bought was Saxophone Colossus by Sonny Rollins.
My advice to new listeners is keep listening!