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Tim Berne's Caos Totale - Pace Yourself (1990)

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A Darker Shade Of Blue

Pace Yourself, e.g. be your own pacemaker, is themotto adopted by composer and alto saxophone player Tim Berne, and also thetitle of his second leader album on JMT.

The ideas for Tim Berne’s compositions stem from his veryown private world. They are inspired by things read and things experienced aswell as by things heard. And the fact that “it sounds good” also has a lot todo with the band members. Tim Berne elaborates his pieces from the start withspecific musicians in mind. They are to serve the composition as best they can,whereas the latter serves as a made-to-measure matrix for their instrumentalself-realization. The composition tries to get the best out of them, as theytake up the challenge of fulfilling it as precisely and imaginatively aspossible. Here is how Tim Berne describes his main concern: “What matters to meis to find ways of combining composition and spontaneity, to make the gapbetween them shrink or, in other words, to experiment how close you can pushform and structure to the edge of chaos without falling into the abyss.” Theband name Caos Totale does not, indeed, stand for shapeless “free” playing,since Tim Berne considers that “free jamming does not appear especiallyinteresting to me. Free improvisation does not make good use of talent. Most ofus then just end up falling back onto clichés. I find it much more productiveto control the conditions.”

Pave Yourself introduces Tim Berne’s newly formedsextet. The soundis different from anything previously recorded by Tim Berne. While the soundand structure of Fractured Fairy Tales was largely determined by the strings(Mark Dresser, bass, Mark Feldman, violin, and Hank Roberts, cello), PaceYourself is more “wind-oriented”, making it earthier, louder, bolder. As with FracturedFairy Tales, Tim Berne manages, thanks to his fascinating multi-layered,compact, yet clear, orchestration to create the impression that we are dealingwith a big band rather than with a sextet. Herb Robertson on the trumpet andMark Dresser on the bass are Tim Berne’s long time partners. The Frenchguitarist Marc Ducret impressed Tim Berne so much at a workshop in Baden-Badenthat he was quick to get him into the band. His earthy-bluesy and at timeshighly unusual contributions to Pace Yourself prove the band leaderright. An album by Marc Ducret under his own name should come out this year onJMT. Steve Swell, trombone, had already been on tour, along with Tim Berne andMark Dresser, with Hank Roberts’ band Black Pastels. He and Herb Robertson knoweach other from performances with the latter’s brass ensemble. Tim Berne hasanother great drummer in his band alongside Joey Baron: Bobby Previte. Hebrings the sextet enormous energy. Tim Berne: “At the time I was composing themusic for Pace Yourself, I was listening to a lot of simple groovemusic. Not that this shows through directly in my music. But a strong rhythmicimpulse is definitely there and Bobby Previte manages to convey it very well, Ifind.”
The music magazine Option wrote about Tim Berne’s music: “Contrary to a lotof comparable cross-border things, Berne’s music is fun even in its wildest andmost difficult moments. It is written and performed to be listened to andenjoyed over and over again.” When you get into Tim Berne’s Caos Totale – PaceYourself, you will each time discover new and until then unheard facets.
WINTER & WINTER |  JMTRecords                                                                                                    (Part ofthe original printed text written in 1991)

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Uri Hornstein

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