Reviews that mention Tim Berne

May 8, 2017

Artist Feature

Dan Weiss
By Ken Waxman

Music transcends it all,” boldly states drummer Dan Weiss. “I play with musicians from the States, Europe, India, etc. I’ll play with musicians from Mars if we’re on the same page. I don’t think about where people are from. It’s only about the music for me, nothing else. Not color, not background, not anything.” Although there are no reports of collaborations with space aliens from the Red Planet or elsewhere in the list of musicians Weiss will be playing with during his six day residency at The Stone early this month, a cross section of terrestrial artists with whom he works frequently are featured, including saxophonists David Binney, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Tim Berne and Ellery Eskelin, pianists Jacob Sacks, Craig Taborn and Matt Mitchell plus bassists Mike Formanek and Trevor Dunn. Missing are some other Weiss stateside contacts as well as his regular European partners. The list is a testament to his versatility. MORE

July 1, 2016

Ingrid Laubrock

Ubatuba
Firehouse 12 Records FH12-04-01-022

Le Rex

Wild Man

Cuneiform Records RUNE 411

Distinctively re-jigging the rhythm section so that the tuba takes the places of a double bass gives many ensembles a certain post-modern fillip. At the same time by reverting to the early Jazz configuration of a brass bass, the band runs the risk of waddling too often into Second Line simplicity. Two sextets – one American and one Swiss – deal with this challenge inventively, but in different ways, confirming that the lowest-toned member of the brass family usually needs more than condensed space in which to express its full tonal range. MORE

March 7, 2016

On The Cover

Michael Formanek
Going the Distance

By Ken Waxman

Bassist Michael Formanek admits that until recently he never really ‘loved” big band music, even though he had played his share of it during the quarter century he spent in New York before 2003. In Manhattan, as an in-demand sideman, among his other jobs, he put in time with the Mingus big band plus large groups led by pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi and saxophonist Bob Mintzer. But Formanek, 58, who has gigged almost constantly since at 18, in his native San Francisco, he began working with major innovators including drummer Tony Williams and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, was in NYC closely identified with what he calls “more intense improvisation”. He led his own small acoustic groups and was featured in many so-called downtown bands, most prominently those led by alto saxophonist Tim Berne. MORE

January 1, 2016

NPR’s 10th Annual

Jazz Critics Poll Ballot
2015

Ken Waxman (The New York City Jazz Record, Jazz Word)

NEW RELEASES

  1. Roscoe Mitchell, Celebrating Fred Anderson (Nessa)
  2. Daniel Carter-William Parker-Federico Ughi, Navajo Sunrise (Rudi)
  3. François Carrier-Michel Lambert-Rafal Mazur, Unknowable (Not Two)
  4. Anna Webber, Refraction (Pirouet)
  5. Tim Berne, You've Been Watching Me (ECM)
  6. Evan Parker, Seven (Victo)
  7. Samuel Blaser, Spring Rain (Whirlwind)
  8. Akira Sakata-Giovanni Di Domenico-John Edwards-Steve Noble, Live at Cafe Oto (Clamshell)
  9. James Falzone & the Renga Ensemble, The Room Is (Allos Documents)
  10. George Freeman & Chico Freeman, All in the Family (Southport)
MORE

June 11, 2015

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil

You’ve Been Watching Me
ECM 2443

By Ken Waxman

Augmenting the already well-balanced sound of his Snakeoil quartet, alto saxophonist Tim Berne introduces guitarist Ryan Ferreira’s chord-shredding distortions to the seven Berne originals here, creating a fuller but no less memorable program than the quartet offered at April’s SRO appearance in Toronto. Added to the alternately luminously fluidity or strained grunting from Oscar Noriega’s clarinet or bass clarinet; Matt Mitchell’s poised linear piano style; plus discriminating accents from Ches Smith’s drums, vibes, tympani and percussion; the re-imagined ensemble easily negotiates the compositions’ intricacies. MORE

April 12, 2015

Ananda Gari

T-Duality
Auand Records AU 9041

Tineke Postma

Sonic Halo

Challenge Records CR 73370

Ben Goldberg

Orphic Machine

BAG Productions BAG 007

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York

Shiki

Libra Records 215-036

SITA: Cutting-Edge Free Improvisation at The Music Gallery

By Ken Waxman

Major improvisers from elsewhere frequently play Toronto, but not as often do they appear with an all-star line-up. That’s what happens on April 29 when alto saxophonist Tim Berne’s Snakeoil is in concert at The Music Gallery. Berne, who has been on the cutting edge of advanced jazz for 30-odd years, arrives with three younger players who have distinguished themselves on the New York scene: fellow reedist Oscar Noriega, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Ches Smith. This being the 21th Century and past the age of consistently working groups, each – including Berne – is involved in many other projects. MORE

March 28, 2015

Marc Ducret

Tower-Bridge
Ayler Records AYLCD 139-140

Culmination of a multi-year creative project, Tower-Bridge collects all the players involved in Paris-based guitarist Marc Ducret’s four previous Tower CDs for a raunchy blow-up recorded at two French jazz festivals. With the six compositions described as programmatic, but not obviously so, the real point of this two-CD set is how well the 12-pice ensemble and different sub sets of the band interpret the guitarist’s spiky compositions. Influenced by Ducret’s appreciation for Vladimir Nabokov’s 1969 novel Ada, how well his adaptations reflect the novel’s themes is best left to Nabokov scholars and other literary types. Musically, the only audible leitmotif is frequent reliance on the ADA palindrome. MORE

October 11, 2014

Artist Feature

Ches Smith
By Ken Waxman

To exaggerate a bit, it appears that there was never a time in his life that Ches Smith wasn’t playing drums. Even today at 40, the Brooklyn-based percussionist seems to rarely move from behind his kit. Besides leading his own groups, which include the These Arches quintet, a couple of trios and his Good for Cows duo with bassist Devin Hoff, Smith is kept busy as a sideman in bands led by among others Tim Berne, Marc Ribot and Mary Halvorson, plus indie-rock stalwarts such as Xiu Xiu and Secret Chiefs 3. There’s also his Congs for Brums solo percussion project; and he can sometime be found in NYC’s outskirts participating in extended vodou drum ceremonies. MORE

July 11, 2014

Artist Feature

Matt Mitchell
By Ken Waxman

After a year’s unhappy experience in the late ‘90s trying to establish himself in NYC, pianist Matt Mitchell, 38, escaped, as he terms it, to his hometown of Philadelphia and got a day job at the University of the Arts’ library. “I swore I'd never again play one music gig I didn’t want to play, and I haven’t.”

He’s certainly lived up to that pledge. Mitchell, who ultimately quit the library job in 2009, is still in Philly. But he now divides his time working in such high-profile ensembles as Dave Douglas’ Quintet, Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Bird Project, Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, Darius Jones’ Quartet, John Hollenbeck’s Large Ensemble, Rez Abbasi's Invocation, plus his own band with bassist Chris Tordini, drummer Dan Weiss and tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed. Mitchell has also been widely praised for Fiction, his Pi Recordings debut, which is a series of duets with Snakeoil drummer Ches Smith. MORE

March 8, 2014

Artist Feature

Ingrid Laubrock
By Ken Waxman

One of the many non-American musicians who have set up shop in NYC, German-born saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, 43, has quickly become a presence on the local scene. But the soprano and tenor saxophonist one who was already recognized for her playing and writing elsewhere – London’s highly competitive improv scene – before she crossed the ocean permanently in 2008.

Then again, the Hundewick-raised reedist has always thrived on new situations and challenges. And as someone who didn’t start playing the saxophone until her teens she declares that “I didn't really decide that I wanted to become a musician, it more or less happened … I sort of drifted into it.” MORE

August 28, 2013

Ches Smith and These Arches

Hammered
Clean Feed CF 270 CD

Ingrid Laubrock’s Anti House

Strong Place

Intakt CD 208

Guitarist Mary Halvorson may be the connection between these two New York-centred quintet sessions, yet their striking individuality results from who’s sitting behind the drum kit. On Hammered, Ches Smith, whose experience encompasses drumming for rock bands such as Secret Chiefs 3, brings a punkish energy to an affiliation with certified New York downtowners. Meanwhile, although Strong Place is under saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock’s leadership – she also composed all the tunes – much of the disc’s definition comes from the laid-back rhythm strategy of drummer Tom Rainey, who usually fronts a trio filled out by the German-born tenor and soprano saxophonist and Halvorson. Other players on Strong Place include pianist Kris Davis, who is Canadian, and bassist John Hébert who isn’t, despite the way he spells his last name. MORE

August 1, 2012

Bruno Chevillon/Tim Berne

Old and Unwise
Clean Feed CF 221 CD

Tim Berne

Snakeoil

ECM 2234

After keeping a low profile of late, working mostly as sax-for hire in co-op bands, New York alto saxophonist Tim Berne asserts himself more conspicuously with these revealing projects. Old and Unwise is a set of unvarnished improvisations between Berne and French bassist Bruno Chevillon. Recorded seven months later, and his first studio date in eight years, Snakeoil introduces a new Berne combo, which tellingly doesn’t include a bass player. Instead Berne’s alto forays are harmonized with Oscar Noriega’s clarinet and bass clarinet, Matt Mitchell’s piano and Ches Smith’s drums. MORE

August 1, 2012

Tim Berne

Snakeoil
ECM 2234

Bruno Chevillon/Tim Berne

Old and Unwise

Clean Feed CF 221 CD

After keeping a low profile of late, working mostly as sax-for hire in co-op bands, New York alto saxophonist Tim Berne asserts himself more conspicuously with these revealing projects. Old and Unwise is a set of unvarnished improvisations between Berne and French bassist Bruno Chevillon. Recorded seven months later, and his first studio date in eight years, Snakeoil introduces a new Berne combo, which tellingly doesn’t include a bass player. Instead Berne’s alto forays are harmonized with Oscar Noriega’s clarinet and bass clarinet, Matt Mitchell’s piano and Ches Smith’s drums. MORE

January 5, 2012

SFE

Positions and Descriptions
Clean Feed CF 230 CD

By Ken Waxman

For the past 20-odd years as “Butch” Morris has demonstrated conduction: structuring free improvisation using a specific series of hand gestures, many improvising ensembles have been created in his its wake. Whether groups use or not signals developed by Morris to rearrange and sculpt notated and non-notated music, conduction is part of their inventory. As these releases demonstrate however, it depends on individual musicians’ skills for a performance to be fully satisfying. MORE

January 5, 2012

Lest We Forget:

Julius Hemphill (1938-1995)
By Ken Waxman

Known best for the 15-odd years he spent as a founding member of the World Saxophone Quartet (WSQ), saxophonist and composer Julius Arthur Hemphill, influenced the shape of jazz before and after that affiliation. Live at Kassiopeia, a 1987 German concert recently released by NoBusiness, demonstrates his prowess in extending solo reed language and in powerful duets with German bassist Peter Kowald. Hemphill’s organizational and musical smarts also encouraged younger saxophonists such as Tim Berne and especially Marty Ehrlich, whose Julius Hemphill Sextet preserves the all-saxophone ensemble Hemphill created after splitting with the WSQ. MORE

December 5, 2011

Marc Ducret

Tower Vol. 2
Ayler Records AYLCD 119

By Ken Waxman

Fraternal, but not identical twin to French guitarist Marc Ducret’s Tower Vol. 1, this CD features him with a completely different cast, yet is just as noteworthy. The only horn is alto saxophonist Tim Berne, whose association with Ducret goes back 15 years. Drummer is in-demand Tom Rainey and unparalleled string variations come from fellow Gaul, violinist Dominique Pifarély, who has worked with reedist Louis Sclavis.

Consisting of three, extended – the briefest is nearly 17 minutes – multi-sectional compositions, the quartet operates at a high level throughout. Organic and polyphonic, the musical narratives frequently depend on textural similarities among the three lead instruments as Rainey stays in the background with strokes, pops and bounces. MORE

November 10, 2011

Auand Records

Label Spotlight
By Ken Waxman

No matter how many products are in the marketplace quality wins out, and Italian label Auand demonstrates this. Celebrating its 10th Anniversary with a series of New York concerts, the label, located in Bisceglie, on the Adriatic seacoast, was founded by Marco Valente because, he says, with most Italian jazz labels dating from the 1970s, “I felt the Italian scene needed something new to shake up the market.”

Valente, who owns www.jazzos.com, a successful e-commerce site, admits to a “love of the so-called downtown New York scene. I often found its influence on some Italian musicians I work with”. Consequently Auand has often put out CDs by foreign, as well as Italian improvisers. With players such as Tim Berne, Jim Black and Bobby Previte, it has facilitated Americans recording with Italians. MORE

March 24, 2011

Michael Formanek

The Rub And Spare Change
ECM 2167

Hugo Carvalhais

Nebulosa

Clean Feed CF 201 CD

Leadership’s loss is a sideman’s gain as these quartet sessions demonstrate. That’s because alto saxophonist Tim Berne, who hasn’t made a CD under his own name for about half a decade, instead adds his skills to these bassist-led quartet sessions. Instructively as well, while one combo is completed by Americans with whom Berne has often played in the past, the other is made up of younger Portuguese Jazzers who recently toured with the American reedist. MORE

March 24, 2011

Hugo Carvalhais

Nebulosa
Clean Feed CF 201 CD

Michael Formanek

The Rub And Spare Change

ECM 2167

Leadership’s loss is a sideman’s gain as these quartet sessions demonstrate. That’s because alto saxophonist Tim Berne, who hasn’t made a CD under his own name for about half a decade, instead adds his skills to these bassist-led quartet sessions. Instructively as well, while one combo is completed by Americans with whom Berne has often played in the past, the other is made up of younger Portuguese Jazzers who recently toured with the American reedist. MORE

January 23, 2006

HERB ROBERTSON NY DOWNTOWN ALL STARS

Elaboration
Clean Feed CF042 CD

Organized to bring out the best qualities of trumpeter Herb Robertson’s more-than-48-minute composition when it was performed at the Vancouver (British Columbia) Jazz Festival, the NY Downtown All Stars is no misnomer.

Each of he players has a long history with one another, and all – with the exception of drummer Tom Rainey – have frequently recorded as leaders. Alto saxophonist Tim Berne has been had his own bands since the early 1980s, around the time he first met the drummer and the brassman, both of whom have played in his combos. Swiss pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, who has a long-standing affiliation with another downtowner, violinist Mark Feldman, has worked with Robertson since the mid-1990s. As for bassist Mark Dresser, now teaching at the university level in California, his associations on both coasts run the gamut from multi-reedman Anthony Braxton to pianist Satoko Fujii – and everyone in between. MORE

November 22, 2004

BIG SATAN

Souls Saved Hear
Thirsty Ear THI 5751.2

MS4
Smash the Tomatoes
ILK q04.1

Catapulting drum rhythms, chiming guitar runs and inventive saxophone lines unite this American trio and Danish quartet. But each has worked out its own way to mold the excitement of rock and adroit improvisations without falling into the trap of splashy fusion.

The secret of success seems to involve original compositions from more than one band member, an imaginative fretman, a laid-back drummer and a subtle reedist. Yet interestingly enough, the young Danes and slightly older Americans are affiliated in such a way that the MS4 could be siblings of Big Satan. MORE

January 26, 2004

TIM BERNE

The sublime and. Sciencefrictionlive
Thirsty Ear RHI 57139.2

MARC DUCRET
Qui parle?
Sketch SKE 333038

Leaving well enough alone has never had particular appeal to those involved in creating electrified jazz/rock fusion music. Why keep the volume control knob turned to nine when it can reach 10? And why play for a few minutes when a half-hour or so is available?

Alto saxophonist/composer Tim Berne -- who has proven his talents in many situations ranging from working in standard-size jazz combos to writing for a classical sax quartet -- flirts with excess on this two-CD set, recorded live in Switzerland. While he and drummer Tom Rainey stick to acoustic instruments, the allure of showing off the textures available from Marc Ducret’s guitar(s) and effects and Craig Taborn’s electric piano, laptop computer and virtual organ evidentially prove too seductive. Although in total the Science Friction band session clocks in at 109 minutes, it includes three tunes in the 20-minute range and one that rocks on for more than 30. MORE

February 10, 2003

XMARSX

XMARSX
Atavistic ALP138CD

TIM BERNE
Science Friction
Screwgun Screwu 013

Just because many -- most? -- of the advances transmitted by jazz-rock fusion had been ground into formula by the early 1980s, doesn’t means that there isn’t scope for exploration with that mixture of highly amplified instruments and improvisation.

Fusion doesn’t have to be what it has become -- bass guitar grandstanding, drummers using more equipment than finesse, and onanistic lead guitar indulgences -- as these two CDs set out to prove. Still its conventions are so strong that you can almost literally hear the musicians struggling to stretch the formula. Whether they prevail is open to interpretation and may depend on your history on the jazz or rock side of the fence. MORE

January 2, 2003

GEORGE SCHULLER & SCHULLDOGS

Hellbent
Playscape PSR #J111300

Sometimes, it seems, it pays to live in what many people would figure are the jazz boondocks.

At least that’s what the audience in attendance at The Outpost in Albuquerque, N. M. must have felt a couple of years ago when they got to participate in this exceptional live recording by drummer George Schuller’s Schulldogs. What the Brooklyn-based percussionist did that night was to plop a little bit of downtown Manhattan into the American southwest, count off six of his compositions, and let the chips fall where they would. MORE

December 9, 2002

TIM BERNE AND THE COPENHAGEN ART ENSEMBLE

open, coma
Screwgun Screwu 012

Finally, after more than 20 years of recording, card-carrying New York downtowner Tim Berne is able to show off his versatility by writing for and playing with uncommon aggregations.

Not that the alto saxophonist hasn’t created impressive -- some very impressive -- work using the standard horns-and-rhythm-section of traditional jazz trios, quartets and sextets. Yet in apparently less doctrinaire European countries, unusual combinations can be rehearsed and recorded. Recently a CD featuring notated compositions written for his alto and a Swiss classical saxophone quartet was released. Now there’s this fine two-CD set, recorded in 2000. It features Berne plus two of his close associates, American trumpeter Herb Robertson and French guitarist Marc Ducret, performing his music along with a conductor and the 10-member Copenhagen Art Ensemble (CAE). MORE

September 23, 2002

ARUNDO DONAX

Dancers In Love
Splasc (H) Records CHD 742.2

TIM BERNE
The Sevens
New World 80586-2

Voiced properly, a saxophone quartet can perform with either the delicacy of an chamber string configuration or with the vigor and tempo of a New Orleans brass band. Because its musical history is so brief as well -- Adolphe Sax only invented the instrument circa 1840 -- the possibilities for invention and innovation with four reeds also seem almost limitless.

Each of these discs offers an excellent take on the joys of sax. More traditional, the Italian-based Arundo Donax ensemble follows aggregations such as the World Saxophone Quartet that create an all-reed showcase for jazz standards. Each soloist also gets to show off his improvisational prowess. MORE

April 29, 2001

TIM BERNE

The Shell Game
Thirsty Ear THI 57099.2

Tim Berne's first studio session in eight years may surprise a lot of people. For while the downtown New Yorker has always been one of the city's more vehement improvisers, this trio disc is the first he's organized where electronic keyboards define the shape of his four compositions.

Suddenly he's able to do so, he says, because the group showcases the multidimensional electric impulses of Craig Taborn. Taborn, who is a veteran of stints with the bands of James Carter and Roscoe Mitchell, knows enough about electronics' inner workings to be able to perform the dual role as soloist an accompanist -- often at the same time. Third member is inventive drummer Tom Rainey, who has a long working relationship with both the saxophonist and bassist Mark Helias.

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February 21, 2001

ENTEN ELLER & TIM BERNE

Auto da fé
Splasc(H) Records CDH 819.2

Grafting the talents of a visiting soloist onto the interplay a long-established group has established for itself can often be a recipe for disaster. The newcomer wants to plays the way he has in the past; while the band doesn't particularly want to alter its style to make allowances for another person.

AUTO DA FÉ avoids this situation however. It seems that Enten Eller -- the Italian group founded by percussionist Massimo Barbiero in 1984 -- and the visitor -- American alto saxophonist Tim Berne -- were already investigating similar areas before they met. Not only has Berne toured and recorded with this band before, but the instrumentation even resembles that of some of his more own groups.

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