All About Jazz-New York review by John Sharpe


Tim Berne – Insomnia (CF 215)
Inexplicably this session is being released some 13 years after it was recorded. This music is more than worthwhile and features two long-form compositions by saxophonist Tim Berne performed by an allstar octet. While we might ponder the reasons for such delay, the listener should be grateful to Portugal’s prolific Clean Feed label that sense has finally prevailed. Berne assembled a cast of regular collaborators, including his Bloodcount band of reedman Chris Speed, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Jim Black, augmented by three strings and the trumpet of Baikida Carroll. As an instrumentalist Berne generally adopts a low profile. In spite of the limited roll call this is orchestral music show casing the leader’s arrangements, which allow improvised passages to emerge naturally from the written, retaining that crucial element of unpredictability. At over 36 minutes, “The Proposal” is the longer track, cycling through multiple sections that veer from the austere 20th century classical of some of the string voicings to the jazzier settings for the undersung Carroll’s sprightly trumpet. In fact the brassman’s Spanish-tinged excursion working out of a riff early onis one the highlights, as is the later intense pas de deux for Dominique Pifarély’s violin and Erik Friedlander’s cello. Speed contributes fervid clarinet, sometimes sharing prominence with Berne’s reeds, but more often as part of the angular movement that characterizes the piece. “Open, Coma”, which clocks in just short of a half hour, prefigures a rendition on a 2002 disc of the same name. More open than the previous cut, utilizing subsets of the ensemble, Berne creates pockets for improvisation within the charts. Guitarist Marc Ducret shines on the chiming crystal line introduction while Carroll again comes up trumps in a mercurial duet with Friedlander’s cello. Berne himself gets into the act with a gruff baritone outing over a staggered pulse, then developing into a forceful anthemic undertow, culminating in a typically asymmetric clattering drum solo by Black for an unusual close.

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