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Tim Berne: Insomnia

Shaun Brady reviews 'Insomnia,' the new release by saxophonist Tim Berne

Tim Berne

Tim Berne is nothing if not prolific. Even single pieces are packed with more ideas than many a composer would try to cram into an entire album, and Berne doles out his epics in more punnily named configurations than anyone (even their members) could be expected to keep straight.

All the evidence you’d need of Berne’s fecundity is contained within Insomnia. Recorded in 1997 but unreleased until now, this breathtaking octet recording would be a keystone in many a musician’s catalog but is relegated to something of a brilliant footnote to the saxophonist’s work with Bloodcount. That quartet-Chris Speed, here sticking entirely to clarinet; bassist Michael Formanek; and drummer Jim Black-was Berne’s chief outlet in the mid-’90s and forms the backbone of the ensemble here. But they’re doubled by four more equally adventurous improvisers: frequent collaborator Marc Ducret on acoustic 12-string guitar, violinist Dominique Pifarély, cellist Erik Friedlander and trumpeter Baikida Carroll, a close collaborator of Berne’s mentor, Julius Hemphill.

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