Tuesday night saxophonist Tim Berne performs with a top-notch quartet called Broken Shadows that’s devoted to the music of three brilliant reedists from Fort Worth, Texas: Ornette Coleman, Dewey Redman, and Julius Hemphill. I previewed the concert, which is the Chicago debut of this new band—which also includes reedist Chris Speed, drummer Dave King, and bassist Reid Anderson—but I didn’t make much of the contrast between Berne’s slinky, blues-streaked playing in this quartet and the tangled, information-packed style he’s pursued elsewhere for years. It’s that difference that makes Broken Shadows unique.
A couple months ago Berne released the duo album Angel Dusk (Screwgun/Moose Knuckles) with pianist Matt Mitchell, a key member of his intensely dense, labyrinthine band Snakeoil. Mitchell has an almost preternatural grasp of Berne’s ideas—last year he made a solo recording of Berne compositions called Førage—and on Angel Dusk he proves himself a coequal partner. Like all their work together, these duos swarm with detail and chamber-music-style interaction. Though Mitchell frequently cedes space to Berne—whose astringent alto playing combines tightly coiled flurries, tart sprints, and forlorn cries that reflect the deep-down influence of Hemphill—he’s never merely an accompanist. Exacting unison passages appear in all eight pieces, but everywhere else the give-and-take between the two men is constant—they created the music together, and Mitchell seems to anticipate every shift in direction or tone that Berne makes. Below you can check out the thorny opening track, “Perception/Reception.” Keep in mind that what Berne plays on Tuesday will likely sound vastly different.
Julia Wolfe, Cruel Sister (Cantaloupe)
Mats Öberg, Improvisational Two.five (Caprice)
Franco Battiato, Clic (RCA, Italy)
Magda Mayas, Damon Smith, and Tony Buck, Spill Plus (Nuscope)
Jamila Woods, Heavn (Jagjaguwar)