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By Uri Hornstein
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Tim Berne's Bloodcount – Unwound (1996) / 3-CD set

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A Darker Shade Of Blue

Recorded live in March 1996 in Berlin by Sascha vonOertzen (discs 1 & 2) and in April 1996 in Ann Arbor, Michigan by SeanWestergaard (disc 3) 
Mastered by David Torn at the loop pool Bearsville,NY 

Designed and arted by Steve Byram Fly tied by MichaelFormanek Recipe by Jim Black (first printing) Tracy Williams (second printing)printed by Fireproof Press Chicago

by Joslyn Layne

Unwound is a fully satisfying dose of Tim Berne’s Bloodcount(live, as always) in a three-disc set. The first two contain performances fromMarch 1996 that took place in Berlin, while the music on the third disc comesfrom an April show in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which ended with an epic journey ofan improvisation — the 40-plus minute “What Are the Odds.” Disc one,”We’re Only in It for the Food,” starts with a medium burner thatworks into a groove called “Bro’ball.” This piece (one of the boxset’s shortest, at 16 minutes) is followed by “No Ma’am,” whichallows the listener to get used to floating in the thick of the music beforeany graspable theme emerges (about halfway through). Once it does, thesaxophone and bass rewardingly pick up and swap different parts of the melodicand rhythmic lines, often resulting in tight unisons. Drummer Jim Black hassome wild and hard-hitting solos on several tracks, including “YesDear,” the last piece on disc one, and the opener on disc three, “TheOther.” Bassist Michael Formanek is, as always, a strong and amazingpresence, with featured moments including solos in “Loose Ends” and”Mr. Johnson’s Blues” (the second and third pieces on disc two).Completing Berne’s quartet is Chris Speed, who double-duties on clarinet andtenor saxophone, always intuitive in choosing to play foil or cohort to Berne’salto and baritone. Everybody gets plenty of room for a terrific solo during thecloser, “What Are the Odds.” This is a great box set, recommended forall big fans of Bloodcount. The uninitiated should start with a smaller dose,such as Saturation Point or Discretion, since Bloodcount’s music requires longattention spans (the tracks are over 20 minutes, on average) to reap themusical rewards.

by Glenn Astarita

Saxophonist extroadinaire Tim Berne has recently released a 3-CD set on hisown label, Screwgun Records. Berne has been a leading proponent of the socalled NYC “Downtown Scene” for many years; his vast recorded librarystretches back to the late 1970′s. Columbia records signed Berne many years agoin an attempt to diversify it’s more or less conservative portfolio. Enjoyinglimited success with Columbia, Berne subsequently recorded several fantasticLP’s for Soul Note and JMT records.
Berne studied under the late great Julius Hemphill, whose fiery attack,unorthodox phrasing and intriguing compositions are somewhat legendary. HisCaos Totale band was a force of energy. His powerful tribute to the lateHemphill “Diminutive Mysteries” is now considered a classic. Sincethen, Berne has fronted “Bloodcount”.
Bloodcount Unwound is their fourth and perhaps bestrecording. Bloodcount is Berne, Chris Speed (saxophones), Mike Formanek (bass)and the amazing young Jim Black on drums. These three CD’s are live recordingsof stints in Germany and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Guitarist Marc Ducret has eitherapparently left the band or wasn’t available for this tour.
The intensity level here is monumental. Most of the cuts are long anddevelop at a rapid pace. Berne is clearly the bandleader. He prods, pushes anddictates the tempo. Young saxophonist Chris Speed is a perfect companion forBerne’s energetic improvisations. Disk 1 is called “Where Only In It ForThe Food.” Young Jim Black is everywhere on the kit; he shifts the tempo,provides the attack but never destroys the omni-present beat. His uncanny senseof timing and an unorthodox back beat keep the train moving at a mind-bogglingpace, while monster bassist Micheal Formanek provides the current.
The soloing throughout these CD’s never detract from the thematicdevelopments. Berne’s music tends to be angular yet fast paced. He’s nevercomplacent enough to stay with one motiff for a prolonged period of time. TheFan and An Average Daze are the titles for the other 2 disks. The cuts arebasically long and complex.
This is not easy listening for the faint at heart (although, it is lessavante than one might assume). Bloodcount Unwound is a seriesof startling “live” performances by this tight and extremelyadventurous unit. No place to hide here. It’s difficult music to perform withplenty of surprises for almost everyone.

This set is a limited edition.

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Uri Hornstein

Read more at A Darker Shade Of Blue


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