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Dave Brubeck Quartet and Bill Smith at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Herb Robertson

Tim Berne inhabits a musical universe shaped both by ceaseless rigor and infinite flexibility; by total chaos and utter control. His work bristles with the friction of these opposing forces, even as it dissolves their defining borders. As a result, there’s a restive balance at the heart of this music, which asks of its listeners active engagement, if not wholehearted devotion.

Much of the audience at this recent four-evening Knitting Factory run was of the wholehearted-devotion variety, and their commitment was amply rewarded. Berne unveiled a new ensemble and debuted a handful of new compositions, and it was possible to witness the evolution of both band and music over the course of the week. Each night began with a full set by the quartet (Berne with Marc Ducret on guitar, Craig Taborn on keyboards and Tom Rainey on drums), and then featured a new sextet (the aforementioned plus trumpeter Herb Robertson and bassist Scott Colley). Most of the new tunes were penned specifically for the latter, larger group.

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