TIM BERNE - CAREER NARRATIVE
“There may not be a jazz musician more in tune with the notion of rugged individualism
than the alto saxophonist and composer Tim Berne.” Nate Chinen, New York Times
Saxophonist Tim Berne has been described by critics as commanding “considerable power as a composer and frighteningly deft ability as a soloist.” (Thom Jurek) With a body of work spanning three decades, Berne is considered “one of the most forward thinking and fearless composers in jazz.” (Karl Ackermann) In addition to his work as a bandleader, In the past Berne has collaborated with musicians like Bill Frisell, Mark Helias and John Zorn and is currently working as a sideman with Michael Formanek,Ches Smith,David Torn and Drew Gress to name a few.
Berne has been the recipient of a number of honors for composition and performance, including awards from the Shifting Foundation (1989), the New York State Council on the Arts (1989), the Birmingham Jazz Foundation (1990), and the British Arts Council (1997 and 2003). He has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet (1996), the Swiss Arte Quartet (2000), the Copenhagen Art Ensemble (2000), and many others. Additionally, Berne has had residencies at the Djerassi Artist’s Program (1989),The McDowell Colony,Civitella Ranieri(2002), and has led music workshops with Siena Jazz (Italy, 2009), SIM (New York City, 2005-2013), the Lucerne Jazz School (2012), and Merano Jazz (Italy, 2013).
Berne began his professional career in 1978 after mentoring with renowned multi-instrumentalist and composer Anthony Braxton and notably jazz saxophonist Julius Hemphill. Between 1979 and 1981, he produced four solo records for his own Empire label. In 1981, Berne received his first composition award from the New York Foundation for the Arts and, that same year, formed a quartet with Herb Robertson (trumpet), Ed Schuller (bass), and Paul Motian (percussion). The group undertook an extensive European tour and produced a studio record (Mutant Variations) under the Soul Note record label.
In 1984 Berne toured in duet with Bill Frisell and recorded "Theoretically" with Bill for Empire and Minor Music.
Berne’s 1987 Columbia debut, Fulton Street Maul, featured guitarist Bill Frisell, cellist Hank Roberts, and drummer Alex Cline. Celebrated as a seminal work in avant-garde jazz, a review of the album in The New York Times began, “It’s only February, but one of the year’s most important jazz albums has just been released.”
This was followed by "Sanctified Dreams"(CBS/Sony) with Joey Baron, Mark Dresser, Hank Roberts and Herb Robertson.
In 1988, Berne released the first of several albums under the JMT label with the collaborative group Miniature (with Joey Baron and Hank Roberts). 1989 brought even greater widespread recognition for the musician; Berne's JMT release Fractured Fairy Tales was hailed as a “masterpiece” by the New York Times and he received an artist’s residency at the prestigious Djerassi Artist’s Program, the largest art colony in the Western United States. Berne's work with the JMT label culminated in the historic Paris Concerts given by his quartet Bloodcount, released in three volumes (Lowlife, Poisoned Minds and Memory Select). Bloodcount has since performed over 250 concerts worldwide.
Berne continued his prolific output in the 1990s. In addition to producing commissioned compositions for the Rova Saxophone Quartet (1992) and the Kronos Quartet (1996) and touring the United Kingdom under a British Arts Council grant, he also collaborated in two cooperative ensembles: Paraphrase (feat. Drew Gress and Tom Rainey) and Big Satan (feat. Tom Rainey and Ducret). In 1996, Berne founded Screwgun Records, which is now home to a growing catalogue of “engaging and uncompromising music[a]” by Berne and his collaborators.
In 2000, Berne produced a commissioned composition for the Swiss Arte Quartet titled Repulsion. The same year, he traveled to Denmark and Sweden to perform and record with the Copenhagen Art Ensemble, captured in the double-CD set Open, Coma. He also continued producing avant-garde jazz recordings with small ensembles, included the trio Hardcell with Tom Rainey and Craig Taborn and Science Friction with Rainey, Taborn, and Marc Ducret. In 2002, he received a residency at the Civitella Ranieri Art Colony in Umbria, Italy.
Berne’s current work has focused on the ensemble group Snakeoil, consisting of Berne, Matt Mitchell, Ches Smith, and Oscar Noriega. Snakeoil has performed extensively in Europe,Scandinavia,Canada and the United States and has recorded two albums for ECM records in Germany. The latest, Shadow Man, will be released in October of 2013.
In 2012, Berne received a commission from the Roulette performance space in Brooklyn to write for an augmented incarnation of Snakeoil (including additional performers Erik Friedlander, Ryan Ferreira, Herb Robertson, and Trevor Dunn). The result, Static, a 55 minute continuous suite was performed in Brooklyn on June 28, 2013.
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