Saturday, October 17, 2020

Tim Berne's Snakeoil - The Deceptive 4 (Intakt Records, 2020)

Snakeoil has become one of alto saxophonist Tim Berne’s most reliable bands, accompanied by Matt Mitchell on piano, Oscar Noriega on bass clarinet and b-flat Clarinet and Ches Smith on drums and percussion. This excellent new release consists of two discs, the first recorded live at Firehouse 12 in December of 2017 and the second from IBEAM and Roulette in 2009-10. The opening track “Perception” makes its case well with raw and rending reeds using high register punctuation and pummeling drums. The music evolves into massive collective improvisation at a feverish pace, with saxophone and drums in particular making haste, before the music slows down considerably allowing room for some beautiful piano flourishes. The group develops a complex swirl of colors on “Moornoats,” as the piano breaks out with Smith adding vibes for a delightful texture and the clarinet eases in with the volume and intensity of the music increasing. Deep howls of saxophone and clarinet build long tones of sound, with piano chords tolling underneath, and the drums returning to the fray. There is great intricate woven interplay between the instruments on “Deception” which becomes gradually more intense with heavier piano and drums interlocking for a great section of heavy chords and slashing cymbals. The music stretches out nicely with a generous saxophone solo and an exciting portion of reeds and drums dialogue, leading to a  sweet full collective improvisation at the end. “OCDC” has a fractured opening section with complex interplay between the musicians. This resolves into long horn tones piercing over rippling piano with the band showing great chemistry by playing such complicated music. The piano is low down and burrowing, leading back to the twisting and interconnected narrative, aided by crashing percussion. The lengthy medley “Spare/Cittá” has a very wide screen sensibility to it, with long tones of saxophone and clarinet moving into full bodied flowing full band music that sounds arranged, varied in textures and hues and played with a colorful flourish. The music builds an intense full band conclusion that adds a dramatic touch. In the final track “Hemphill” saxophone and clarinet combine beautiful tones and harmonies, as the piano cascades framing the special sounding reed duet in space. Drums enter as the horns urge a much more urgent full band performance, leading to a grand conclusion. This was a very compelling release, allowing fans to see a recent concert from the group as well as live music from their formation, when they were so new Berne hadn’t even chosen a name for the group yet. The Deceptive 4 -

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