Tim Berne

Jazz Sides

Phases & Stages

Tim Berne

Snakeoil (ECM)

As dramatic as the weather, bright and diffuse one moment, then blustery – even sinister – the next, Tim Berne's debut as bandleader on jazz and classical vanguard ECM frames a quartet blurring all lines of tonal and structural grounding with avian musical ascension. Produced in New York last January by label head Manfred Eichner, the alto saxophonist's reptilian coils of brass all but sprout wings on Snakeoil's six songs in 68 minutes, and the piano, drums, and clarinet/bass clarinet team with a Darwinian tension. "Simple City" finds Berne and pianist Matt Mitchell climbing as one instrument until Oscar Noriega's stilling bass clarinet subverts the piano for a duet somewhere between a Tchaikovsky ballet and Gershwin. On "Scanners," clustering, head-on engagement from the quartet rises and falls, reeds paralleling then crosscut by the percussive half of this foursome. Berne's birdlike solo early in the 14-minute sweep and swing of "Spare Parts" into "Yield" speaks to his playful incisiveness. (Tim Berne's quartet lays in at the Cactus Cafe, Friday, Feb. 24.)

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