Click here to [close]

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Tim Berne & Matt Mitchell - One More, Please (Intakt, 2022)

By Gary Chapin

Tim Berne and Matt Mitchell are one of the great duets of “this kind of music.” It is strange how memory telescopes. You follow music for decades, and then you notice someone new on the scene. Matt Mitchell in Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, for example. Then a decade-ish passes and you’re still thinking of Mitchell as “the new guy,” except there’s this amazing alluring body of work featuring him and Berne together.

One More, Please is the fourth duet record for these two, which, along with seven Snakeoil recordings, makes Mitchell one of Berne’s most thoroughgoing co-conspirators—and finding co-conspirators to embody his compositions is something that Berne has a talent for.

One More, Please continues a trend that I noticed on Spiders in which Mitchell creates a field that is … I’ve been struggling to find the word. His harmonic language reminds me of Kurt Weill, art song, and Sondheim. The opening track, “Purdy,” is introspective and intense and beautiful. Berne, as he does in a lot of these drumless settings, seems more ardent and less fervid. His improvisations are, for the most part, pitch-based provocations.

To my mind these are songs, and I listen as though these were words—just in a language that does not denote. In fact, I would be completely okay if a post-modern poetic Jon Hendricks came along to write lyrics for Berne-song. There are stories here. I just don’t know what they are. They aren’t chained to meaning, yet.

“Number 2,” by Berne mentor Julius Hemphill, fits right into this thesis of mine. It is a chamber setting that brings to mind “Parchment,” played by Hemphill’s partner, Ursula Oppens. It may be just that I have “Parchment” on my mind, which I do, but the thought of a connection is plausible. Especially at around 6:15, when Berne and Mitchell seem to take gentle flight. Like a bird gliding, taking in the landscape.

The rest of the disc is Berne compositions. “Rose-colored Missive” continues the anxious, lovely, emotion that I’ve been hearing. Both it and “Purdy” are genuinely beautiful out-jazz. “Middle Seat Blues:Chicken Salad Blues” starts in a gospel blues vein right from the first chord. I really want to see someone choreograph an improvised dance to this music. Listening, I keep making connections to other art in my head. Dance. Poetry. Cinema.

“Motian Sickness,” I’m going to guess, is a tribute to Paul Motian, a friend and someone who played on Berne’s first European tour (I think I got that right). “Rolled Oats:Curls” closes on the discs strengths. It is spacious, and the notes write on that space with clarity. The conversation between Mitchell and Berne gains intensity. Mitchells chords—and that left hand!—and Berne’s melody intertwining, gaining speed, filling space, venting its emotion. It’s really something.