The structure of a song is something most folks take for granted. While rockers and experimentalists have increasingly been dissolving rock’s simple frames and shifting the focus toward amorphous slabs of slow-moving sound, jazz saxophonist/composer Tim Berne has spent years demolishing the usual verse-chorus-verse jazz forms and building them back up in remarkable, unexpected ways. Berne studied extensively with Julius Hemphill–best known for his long stint in the World Saxophone Quartet–and has developed a strikingly original concept that appropriates Hemphill’s obliquely soulful tone, tart lyricism, and multilinear approach to both composition and improvisation. Dense skeins of melody and harmony take on equal importance, but Berne organizes his musical elements with an almost labyrinthine complexity. Sweet melodies unfurl like tattered flags before evaporating into a jarring blast of jagged textures that might very well sort themselves out into a massive groove. Berne has explored a dramatic range of textures with highly idiosyncratic, talented players like cellist Hank Roberts, guitarist Bill Frisell, trumpeter Herb Robertson, and bassist Mark Dresser, but his full-blown immersion into an alternate world of sound may have reached its apex with Bloodcount. With this group Berne has successfully challenged jazz’s reliance on the solo/vamp formula. Reaching back to the rousing contrapuntal improvisation of Dixieland, Bloodcount christens everyone a soloist and a supporting voice simultaneously. With drummer Jim Black, bassist Michael Formanek, and fellow saxophonist Chris Speed (guitarist Marc Ducret is a part-time member but will not be present for these Chicago gigs), Berne has found musicians with the rigorous intuitive acrobatics his writing demands. In isolated chunks his music reveals a striking melodic accessibility, but Berne likes to keep things moving, so as the ideas pile up furiously the listener must keep fleet-footed. It’s hard work, but the end result is its own reward. This is Bloodcount’s Chicago debut. Wednesday and Thursday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.