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Tim Berne: Science Friction

Tim Berne has never been a control freak, but the defiantly freeform settings he liked to work in during the 1990s seem pretty distant all of a sudden. The saxophonist has now not only embraced composition to an extent unprecedented in his history, he also allows guitarist/producer David Torn to digitize, filter and cut and paste his music into completely new sound objects. Both the newly compositional Berne and the digital Torn make strong showings on three recent recordings.

The dominant voice on Berne’s The Sevens, for example, is not his atomizing baritone or bludgeoning tenor but rather the clear-toned, classically-trained sax group the ARTE Quartett. The Quartett opens the CD with “Repulsion,” a through-composed work that Berne conceived at the piano. Berne’s characteristically tangled concurrent melodies are here, as well as touches of the World Saxophone Quartet’s disembodied sax-section sound, but there’s also a gentler approach not often present in his work. Berne and guitarist Marc Ducret pop in from time to time, in improvisational roles, as does Torn, who does beautiful things with fragments from the Quartett before he lets club-music ambition get the better of him.

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