Friday, February 14, 2020

Tim Berne's Snakeoil - The Fantastic Mrs. 10 (Intakt Records, 2020)

This is the sixth album by alto saxophonist Tim Berne's wonderful band Snakeoil, and the first one to add guitarist Marc Ducret to the ensemble. This rest of the talented group is rounded out with Matt Mitchell piano, tack piano and modular synths, Oscar Noriega on bass clarinet, b flat clarinet and Ches Smith on drums, vibes, glockenspiel and Haitian tanbou. "The Fantastic Mrs. 10" opens the album with a bouncy joyous horn theme, allowing the rest of band to storm in uptempo, as clarinet and piano engage with snarls of guitar in a very complex interplay. There are longer waves of saxophone amid thunderous percussion, then piano and strangled guitar electronics pushing a huge and impressive alto saxophone solo. Guitar and piano slow the pace across a dreamy soundscape that grows alternately harsher and more melodic. The full band finally comes together in a very colorful fashion, playing fast and true to the end. Spare piano with vibes alternating dark and light opens "Surface Noise," and the music becomes more complex as further instruments like saxophone are added. The speed becomes near manic, a cacophony of sound before gradually resolving into an excellent collective improvisation. Clarinet breaks out with guitar to slow things into an abstract setting, where sheer piercing electric guitar is met by reed responses, both saxophone and clarinet. The music is free and open with raw saxophone cries and dark piano chords, eventually regaining momentum and making a full on dash with the full band at very high speed. "Roto" uses a choppy theme that grows fast and intricate, and it's unbelievable how the musicians can stick together at such a fast tempo, before breaking out into alto saxophone and excellent drumming focus, an excellent duo throwdown. Mad sounding musical shards and dark piano figures, squalls of reeds, thick bed of rhythm creates a wild combination of sounds in the midsection. Piano and guitar develop interplay, opening up the music to breathe before closing with a bang. Percussion and guitar creates an abstract setup, and piano adds dark touches to "The Amazing Mr. 7" launching a vibrant improvisation; and the reeds fold in cleanly as the sleek and powerful full band song reaches full flight. Strong piano chords and hand percussion push Berne's alto saxophone into orbit, with clarinet close watch. "Third Option" is an epic track where reeds mix, twist and turn around each other, while piano and drums enter, swirling increasing complexity for fascinating full group interplay, sounding bright and fast. The music is very colorful and exciting with the electric guitar adding even more energy to the mix. There is then a shift into a spacier section snarls of guitar and imposing piano chords, sounding abstract and free with tumbling percussion added followed by raw gales of saxophone. The band has delivered another excellent album, using composition and improvisation, creating acoustic jazz with just the right jolt of electricity to keep things fresh and inspired throughout. The Fantastic Mrs. 10 -

Send comments to Tim.