Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tim Berne's Snakeoil - Shadow Man (ECM, 2013)

Alto saxophonist and composer Tim Berne had a critical hit last year with his ECM debut Snakeoil, and he returns on this follow-up leading a band of the same name. He is joined on this album by Oscar Noriega on clarinet and bass clarinet, Matt Mitchell on piano and Ches Smith on drums, percussion and vibes. The music is quite dynamic in its intensity, moving from loud to soft and from spare to full bodied in a fresh and unpredictable manner. “Son of Not So Sure” opens the album the slow with abstract notes and smears and Mitchell’s piano building against the silence. He builds to a cascade of notes with probing horn in the background and the music grows louder through thrashing drums and keening saxophone. The band comes out blasting on “Static” led by clattering drums and hollow sounding clarinet making for a very compelling sound. Berne plays some of his most scalding and thrilling saxophone here, stark and powerful when framed against Smith’s vibes. “Psalm” is a change of pace, with light piano and saxophone playing in a reverential manner. “OC/DC” is the first of three epics that make up the remainder of the album. Jumping in with fast and exciting and exciting piano and saxophone before downshifting to a swirl of reeds and vibes. The music builds with Brene’s saxophone playing strong free-bop making for sensational excitement. Once again they ease back down for a Noriega feature, before everyone comes together in a raucous conclusion. “Socket” punches hard with some very exciting bellowing saxophone and heavy drums giving way to a finale that features strong almost desperate emotion. The album is wrapped up with the song “Cornered (Duck)” that has a fast and frenetic opening, they draw potential energy and then come flying out in a burst of the kinetic power of crashing piano and drums and wild overblown saxophone. This album has challenging and bracing music that is relentlessly creative. Moving through time and melding the shape and density of the music they are able to develop a unique band sound, one that continues to flow and evolve. Shadow Man -

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