Tim Berne’s Snakeoil  – The Fantastic Mrs. 10 (2020) [Official Digital Download 24bit/44,1kHz]

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil  – The Fantastic Mrs. 10 (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 01:07:12 minutes | 717 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Intakt Records

Few have summed up Tim Berne’s music better than longtime collaborator, producer, and engineer David Torn. In the liner booklet to The Fantastic Mrs. 10, he writes, “Tim’s music has always had balls, always this courageous energy; and it’s not so much being badass, it has the nerve of progress!” That is particularly apt for this recording. It’s Berne’s and Snakeoil’s debut outing for Intakt Records after three dates with ECM. Guitarist Ryan Ferreira, present on the band’s last two outings, has been replaced by longtime Berne associate (and criminally under-celebrated) Danish-born guitarist Marc Ducret. His tenure with the bandleader dates to 1991’s Pace Yourself with Tim Berne’s Caos Totale; he was also a member of Berne’s Big Satan and Bloodcount groups. The majority of these eight tracks are very much of a piece. They combine the saxophonist’s love of closely notated charts, making abundant use of angular harmonies, elastic rhythms, dissonance, and counterpoint, and they both complement and highlight the group’s well-established collective improvisational language. A student and disciple of Julius Hemphill, Berne’s musical logic and philosophy flow with a formally constructed direction (not destination) through elaborate compositional strategies. It’s as if the sharp angles this music pursues in labyrinthian fashion resolve naturally on a sonic map, with identifying (land)marks added during the moment of execution. The title-track opener finds Berne offering a nearly Monk-esque theme to clarinetist Oscar Noriega and pianist Matt Mitchell. Drummer Ches Smith lays a break-ridden, funky shuffle over the top. As the frontline players solo, Ducret plays directly at and in response to Smith (there is no bassist in this band), coloring the tune’s spine with angular riffs, vamps, and fills. “Surface Noise” is introduced quietly by Mitchell’s piano and glockenspiel. His lines course stream-like into rivulets of sound replete with waves of undulating motion. Its flow eventually quiets as Noriega’s clarinet bleats whale-like from the margin, and Ducret’s shards of noise trace color and texture. The remaining players bridge melody, dynamics, and improvisation in conclusion. The lone cover here is a short reading of Hemphill’s ballad “Dear Friend” rendered harmonically faithful. It’s adorned by brittle guitar glitches and percussion feints. “The Amazing Mr. 7,” expresses complex rhythmic and lyrical phraseological figurations through the ensemble’s group interplay. It’s a strategic unfolding, in staggered melodic inflections, that also sounds indebted to Hemphill’s example. Producer and engineer David Torn does a stellar job of illuminating the complexities in Berne’s and Snakeoil’s balanced tightrope walk between formal composition and free playing. The sound on The Fantastic Mrs. 10 is not as pristine as on their ECM recordings, but it’s preferable. There are no implied senses of added space or icy coolness. This set crackles with rooted physicality. The sometimes-explosive interaction takes place in a close environment (like focused conversation). Snakeoil’s music remains tough, permeable, idiosyncratic as hell, and alive with the possibility of the next moment. – Thom Jurek

01. Tim Berne’s Snakeoil  – The Fantastic Mrs. 10 (12:39)
02. Tim Berne’s Snakeoil  – Surface Noise (11:34)
03. Tim Berne’s Snakeoil  – Rolo (13:26)
04. Tim Berne’s Snakeoil  – Dear Friend (03:23)
05. Tim Berne’s Snakeoil  – The Amazing Mr. 7 (08:55)
06. Tim Berne’s Snakeoil  – Third Option (14:33)
07. Tim Berne’s Snakeoil  – Rose Colored Assive (02:39)

Tim Berne: Alte Saxophone
Marc Ducret: Guitars
Matt Mitchell: Piano, Tack Piano, Modular Synths
Oscar Noriega: Bass Clarinet, BB Clarinet
Ches Smith: Drums, Vibes, Glockenspiel, Haitian Tanbou


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