Tim Berne's Big Satan – Souls Saved Hear (Thirsty Ear, 2004)
Tim Berne takes a break from the Science Friction band that he has been working with over the past couple of years to bring back the "Big Satan" group where he's joined by Marc Drucet on guitar and Tom Rainey on drums. The music is very complex and intricate, but remains accessible for the most part due to the nearly telegraphic interplay between the members of the trio. The first track of the disc is an example of the level of interaction between the musicians, starting off with an almost gentle guitar solo before morphing into a complex and frenetic jazz improvisation.
"Deadpan" kicks off with a nearly funky drum solo before Berne's pinched alto saxophone and Drucet's nimble guitar enter the fray. Drucet even drops in a fuzz-toned guitar solo recalling Sonny Sharrock which keeps things moving along briskly, before the music moves back into a torrid collective improvisation… hardly deadpan at all! "Mr. Subliminal" has some solo Berne before the band joins back in and then the disc ends on an interesting note with the electronically processed "Plantain Surgery."
Although it can be a little bit difficult to follow with all the twists and turns, this is a rewarding album and another feather in the cap of Thirsty Ear's Blue Series. The electronics are subtle, so those who haven't been too happy with some of the label's other "jazztronica" projects but still have an ear for free jazz and fusion may find much to admire here. Many of the compositions proceed at a break-neck pace and do not have the traditional melody-solos-melody improvisational structure. But repeated and listening will reveal a wealth of fine and intricate musicianship.
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