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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Tim Berne's Bloodcount - Seconds (Screwgun, 2007) ****

Tim Berne's Bloodcount consists of some of the most creative musicians of the New York jazz scene, with Chris Speed on clarinet and tenor, Michael Formanek on bass, Jim Black on drums and Marc Ducret on guitar. The idiosyncratic Frenchman is absent on this double CD, which was recorded in 1997, yet he is present on the accompanying DVD. The absence of Ducret has a great influence on the overall "color" of the music, which is a little warmer and more accessible without his raw, abstract guitar-playing, yet that doesn't mean the claws have been taken out of band, which is absolutely excellent in all its modern musical vision and unrelenting drive. Berne's sense of improvised melodiousness while keeping a strict grip on the structure of each long piece is astonishing. The music itself rocks and funks at times (often), but it can also be slow and bluesy, but always full of pathos and drama. Despite the length of the tracks, Berne never releases the tension, keeping the pressure up, but that's not something needed here, with someone like Jim Black on the drums, who plays as if his life depends on it. Berne and Speed's interaction is beautiful, twirling around each other like serpents, while Formanek provides the rock solid basis and lots of emotional depth, especially on the pieces on which he gives lengthy solo bass introductions. Truly great. I'm glad this one is now available on CD.

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