Tim Berne’s Snakeoil: Incidentals

tim-Berne-Snakeoil-feat

Tim Berne: alto saxophone; Oscar Noriega: clarinet, bass clarinet; Ryan Ferreira: guitars; Matt Mitchell: piano; Ches Smith: drums, vibraphone, percussion, timpani. With David Torn: guitar on Hora Feliz (intro) and Sideshow (outro)

Hora Feliz – 10:26
Stingray Shuffle – 7:36
Sideshow – 26:01
Incidentals Contact – 10:48
Prelude One / Sequel Two – 9:18

Snakeoil-IncidentalsIncidentals continues Berne’s experimentation in expanding aural soundscapes, bringing the alto saxophonist/composer to a wider audience without compromising his unique approach.

“The group functioned as a quartet on its debut and subsequent Shadow Man (2013). With the release of 2015’s You’ve Been Watching Me, guitarist Ryan Ferreira joined clarinetist Oscar Noriega, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer/percussionist Ches Smith. Guitarist David Torn, who recorded with Berne on his own ECM outing, Prezens (2007) has produced this and the previous two Snakeoil albums, and also plays on two tracks here.”

“The five compositions were penned by Berne with the exception of “Prelude One/Sequel Too,” where he shares writing credits with Mitchell. “Hora Feliz” opens darkly, with low reeds and Mitchell’s restrained piano hanging in the ether until Smith, almost imperceptibly, picks up the pace and the playing becomes more free and open. “Stingray Shuffle” hints at classicism early on, descending into controlled chaos later. “Sideshow” is a twenty-six-minute magnum opus of intricacy with dramatic changes in dynamics, multiple textures, and interwoven degrees of intensity. Smith smoothly guides the transitions, culminating with Torn’s guitar coming into the process as the piece draws to a vivid close. “Incidentals Contact” is more abstract and raucous than the previous pieces and features stand-out contributions from Mitchell and Noriega. “Prelude One/Sequel Too” opens with off-kilter melancholia but builds in strength, only to return for a contemplative close.” (AllAboutJazz])


I never worked with Tim Berne but met him through his sister Betsy, must have been around 1982/3. I think (it was over 30 years ago and I my memory might be playing tricks) he was using Mike Formanek, who ended up helping out big time after my upright had gotten stolen – hooking me up with a Czech bass in New Jersey, which was actually a much better instrument than the one I’d lost. But I seem to remember that Mike had the bass chair covered then; but then again I could be wrong – it’s not like I was soooo good that Tim would have used me in any event. Anyway, you often hear about the cut throat nature of New York but while it is very competitive and you have to have your shit together, playing-wise, to have any chance at making it – the community of musicians can be very supportive.

So, Betsy was a visual artist, painter, and we were both working at a huge law firm as proofreaders. All the proofreaders were writers, actors, painters, etc. (met some really cool folks at that job, which also had other perks), people the law firm thought had other things going on and would not care about the deals they were reading and wouldn’t use the info in nefarious ways (mostly that was true, however there was one working in word processing who was arrested for insider trading while we were there).

We’d pair up, one reading to the other looking for spelling and grammar errors, but mainly just shooting the breeze since there was a lot of down time. When Betsy learned I played upright bass she mentioned her brother. I’ve followed his career with interest ever since; great musician and composer.

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