Monday, July 27, 2020

Broken Shadows - Live (Screwgun Records, 2020)

Named after an Ornette Coleman composition, the band Broken Shadows is made up of Tim Berne on alto saxophone, Chris Speed on tenor saxophone, Reid Anderson on bass and Dave King on drums. Working at the intersection of knotty composition and free improvisation, this performance was recorded live in a small club, opening with Coleman's "Humpty Dumpty" as the horns dive into the theme amid the ambient club noise, and the music swings with thick bass, and soloing saxophone, while light agile drumming completes the scene. Moving to the more tart sounding alto saxophone, Berne digs in deeper and pushes at the edges of the song, creating a tightly wound and impressive solo aided by compelling heavy drumming. "Toy Dance" has a super fast theme of cascading notes, then Berne takes off on a daredevil solo with excellent bass and drums along side. Very fast and relentless as the music drives forward in a tumult of saxophone and drums held together with stoic bass. Speed is a little more laid back, exploring tones and gathering steam, more cerebral but no less intense, and King adds a punishing drum solo to the proceedings. Charlie Haden's "Song for Che" gets a lovely solo bass opening displaying Anderson's patient and resonant style. The horns offer a yearning, spacious saxophone feel, performing in conjunction and creating with each other in fine fashion, ending with more fine bass playing. "Walls Bridges" by Dewey Redman has an explosive opening, sounding collectively free, gutsy tenor saxophone clashing with crashing drums, sounds truly alive, with speed and focus. Berne comes in one fire, at his most caustic, tearing the very air, goaded by the torrential bass and drums into an apocalyptic trio free jazz improvisation. "C.O.D." has a rich, complex theme that is dynamic and allows for an exciting bass and drums rhythm, and fast and driven tenor saxophone response. Wonderful trio improvisation which is rapid and complex and vivid, with the music seething with energy and excitement, almost too exciting as the saxophones raise in pitch in a hair raising moment before returning to the melody and then out. Their theme song "Broken Shadows" takes the band in a different direction, playing longer saxophone tones and bowed bass a marked difference, where texture and tone are the driving forces, and the saxophones peek out alongside the long bass tones, lightest percussion, while silence and space play a large part. The concert concludes with a version on "Dogon A.D.," leaning into the melody of the great Hemphill composition, contrasting light and shade, the saxophones weave through each other like the master craftsmen they are creating a very colorful and arresting performance. Broken Shadows Live - Screwgun Records

Send comments to Tim.