Tim Berne’s third ECM album, You’ve Been Watching Me, sees the saxophonist-composer again leading his ultra-dynamic New York band Snakeoil, but with the quartet now a quintet with the arrival of guitarist Ryan Ferreira, whose sound adds textural allure.
The group’s 2013 release, Shadow Man, garnered Berne some of the highest praise of his career as a composer and bandleader, with JazzTimes marveling over how his work grows “wilder and deeper.” The four-star DownBeat review said: “This music rocks and thinks, explores, deconstructs and, yes, it swings, in its own identifiably angular, Berne-ian way.”
Just as Berne has hit a new peak with his writing on You’ve Been Watching Me, his band has reached a heightened state of collective interaction, realizing the compositions to a tee. Snakeoil – with the leader on alto sax alongside pianist Matt Mitchell, clarinetist Oscar Noriega, percussionist Ches Smith and Ferreira on electric and acoustic guitars – can still be bracingly kinetic.
But there is new space in these compositions and more lyrical focus to the improvisations, leading to a dramatic, even cinematic experience in such tracks as “Embraceable Me.” Put simply, Berne’s music has never been richer or more arresting.
Tim Berne: alto saxophone / Oscar Noriega: clarinet, bass clarinet / Matt Mitchell: piano / Ches Smith: drums, percussion / Ryan Ferreira: guitar
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