Tim Berne, Snakeoil
Tim Berne - Alto Sax
Oscar Noriega - Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
Matt Mitchell - Piano
Ches Smith - Drums, Percussion
As a long-time Tim Berne fan, I looked forward to hearing this new line-up. I enjoyed Oscar Noriega's Luciano's Dream from several years back, and I've also liked what Craig Taborn has brought to Berne's music, so I wanted to hear Matt Mitchell's contribution.
Listening to Snakeoil is an adjustment when compared to his previous work, but it's rewarding, and can be viewed as a maturation of his approach. There's more subtlety, more shading, helped in large part by Mitchell as well as Noriega's clarinet textures. Whereas Bloodcount and Paraphrase were about building sustained tension with little release, Berne's compositions here are more varied and episodic.
This is not a perfect record; there are spots where the thread gets lost and my attention wanders, but overall it's a great addition to his body of work. Between Snakeoil and his guest role on Simon Fell's wonderful large group work, Positions and Descriptions, we may be witnessing a fruitful new stage in Tim Berne's career.