Click here to [close]

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Tim Berne - Sunday Interview

Tim Berne. Photo by Peter Gannushkin.

Introduction by Gary Chapin

I first heard Tim Berne around 1986. His first album was 1979. I’ve waxed lyrical about that time, when I was hanging around the Knitting Factory, spectating the most amazing music I’d ever heard—up til then. It suited my temperament perfectly.

I recently saw Tim Berne with Hank Roberts and Aurora Nealand at the Portland Conservatory of Music, in Maine, and had that same feeling. The most amazing music I’d ever heard. An hour that improved life on Earth. Maybe this points to the absurdity of any sort of quantitative accounting of “greatest music” (what’s your unit of measurement?) but I also think some “sense of greatness” accrues from the body of work.

I’ve noticed this happening with a lot of musicians that used to feel like “the new guys.” By 2024, their oeuvres—yeah, I said it—are of a quality that could drag you down with fascination like a gravity well. If you never emerged, you’d still be content. This is “lifes’ work” in the Bach sense, where you can map out eras, functions, concepts, collaborators, techniques, instruments, etc.

From the answer to the first question below you’ll see that Tim does not think like this (or he doesn’t let me see him thinking like this), but I do. In fact, at the Free Jazz Blog, it’s exactly what I do. Like it’s my job, or something.

Tim Berne was gracious in his answering these questions. Enjoy, and then read the reviews linked below.

  1. What is your greatest joy in improvised music?

    A nice gig

  2. What quality do you most admire in the musicians you perform with?


  3. Which historical musician/composer do you admire the most?

    Julius Hemphill

  4. If you could resurrect a musician to perform with, who would it be?

    Clyde Stubblefield

  5. What would you still like to achieve musically in your life?

    Get better

  6. Are you interested in popular music and - if yes - what music/artist do you particularly like?

    Karen Dalton

  7. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

    My belt

  8. Which of your albums are you most proud of?

    I try not to compare

  9. Once an album of yours is released, do you still listen to it? And how much?

    Not much / Rarely

  10. Which album (from any musician) have you listened to the most in your life?

    Dogon AD (Julius Hemphill)

  11. What are you listening to at the moment?

    My kitchen

  12. What artist outside music inspires you?

    Charles Burnett

Recordings with Tim Berne reviewed on Free Jazz Blog:


Don Phipps said...

Love Tim's work. My first and only time seeing him live was in a chapel courtyard in Florence, Italy in 2003. He and his bandmates Marc Ducret, Craig Taborn, and Tom Rainey, performed the music of of Science Friction. Excellent music in a beautiful setting. Gonna crank on my collection of his music tomorrow!