Tim Berne: Works for Large Ensemble and Solo Piano
Composer Portrait: Tim Berne
Please join Ars Nova Workshop for part two of our two-night Composer Portrait: Tim Berne series, featuring a newly commissioned solo piano composition written for Philadelphian Matt Mitchell in addition to the Philadelphia debut of Adobe Probe, Berne’s new star-studded large ensemble.
Saxophonist/composer Tim Berne was born in Syracuse, NY, in 1954, and purchased his first alto saxophone while attending Lewis and Clark College in Oregon. A fan of R&B and Motown music, he was not particularly interested in jazz until he heard saxophonist Julius Hemphill's album Dogon A.D. Immediately inspired by Hemphill's ability to project R&B soulfulness in a creative jazz context, Berne traveled to New York City in 1974 and located the saxophonist. A mentor-apprentice relationship evolved, providing Berne encouragement for his musical endeavors as well as lessons in how to operate independently. Hemphill, founder of the World Saxophone Quartet and a major figure in the 1970s New York loft jazz scene, died in 1995 leaving a considerable imprint on creative music but with his greatest promise unfulfilled. To this day, Berne, who has explored a singular and uncompromising musical path, cites Hemphill as a significant and continuing influence on his work.
In 1979, Berne founded Empire, his first record label, and released four albums over the next four years. These recordings featured a number of musicians who had - or would soon have - stellar reputations including Paul Motian, John Carter, Olu Dara and Nels Cline. Subsequently, Berne released recordings on Soul Note, Columbia (one featuring guitarist Bill Frisell) and JMT, which climaxed with the historic Paris Concerts given by his quartet Bloodcount, released in three volumes (Lowlife, Poisoned Minds and Memory Select). In 1996 Berne founded his second record label, Screwgun, and has since released many recordings featuring his ongoing projects such as Big Satan, Hard Cell (with Craig Taborn and Tom Rainey), Paraphrase (with Drew Gress and Rainey), David Torn’s Presenz and Buffalo Collision (featuring The Bad Plus’ Ethan Iverson and David King). Over the years, Berne has also performed with John Zorn, the Julius Hemphill Sextet and Baikida Carroll, and his work has been commissioned and performed by such ensembles as Rova Saxophone Quartet, Kronos Quartet and Copenhagen Art Ensemble.
Ethan Iverson: So you have a new band that just played a gig at The Stone for the first time?
Tim Berne: I'm just trying to get around and play with some different people: Shane Endsley, Matt Mitchell, Mary Halvorson, John Herbert, Gerald Cleaver...I like looking for some different musicians, putting together some weird chemistry and seeing what happens. There's something about starting a band that's just really exciting, especially writing new music for people who don't know me well.
EI: The name of the band is Adobe Probe? What does that mean?
TB: Adobe is just adobe. A-d-o-b-e. Probe... use your imagination. I'm not sure. I can use mine.
EI: God, did I really just ask that tired-ass question? Sorry. Also sorry I couldn't make the Stone when Adobe Probe played; how did it go?
TB: I was really happy - it was a blast.
EI: So we're gonna hear a bit more of this band, you think?
TB: You're gonna hear a bit more of this band.
EI: Alright. I'm looking forward to it.
Pianist, composer, and electronic musician Matt Mitchell was born in the Philadelphia area in 1975. After studying music at Indiana University and the Eastman School of Music, he settled back in Philadelphia in 1999. Since then he has pursued an interest in the intersections of both composed and improvised music and of 'classical', 'jazz', and electronic music, performing consistently throughout the United States and Europe. In addition to his solo activities he has been a member of the long standing Philadelphia-area groups Kaktus and Feigner, both of which groups have explored new areas of non-idiomatic group improvisation and released several acclaimed albums on Scrapple Records. His most recent recording, the large-scale electroacoustic piece 'vapor squint, antique chromatic', was released on Scrapple in 2007 to uniformly positive reviews. In addition to being a former member of the avant-rock band Thinking Plague, he performs and has performed with a number of musicians including Ralph Alessi, Tim Berne, Ravi Coltrane, Brad Shepik, Drew Gress, Mark Helias, Tom Rainey, Jim Black, Ari Hoenig, Josh Roseman, and John Swana.
Please join us at 6:30pm for a pre-concert public discussion featuring The New York Times' Nate Chinen and Screwgun Records artist Steve Byram.
Nate Chinen is a regular contributor to the New York Times, a columnist for JazzTimes and the proprietor of a music blog, The Gig. For each of the past four years he has received the Helen Dance-Robert Palmer Award for Excellence in Newspaper, Magazine or Online Feature or Review Writing from the Jazz Journalists Association; in 2004 the same organization recognized Myself Among Others, coauthored with the impresario George Wein, as Best Book About Jazz. A former Penn English major and assistant coordinator at the Kelly Writers House, Chinen started writing about music in the mid-1990s for the Philadelphia City Paper.
Steve Byram is both a professional commercial artist and a fine artist, and for many years has been finding innovative ways to combine the two activities into a singular body of work. Byram is responsible for the distinctive and much-imitated look of the releases on the JMT record label throughout the 1980s. Byram was introduced to Tim Berne while at Columbia during Tim's brief tenure on that label, and history was made. To date Byram has been responsible for the design of almost every single Berne recording released since 1987, including the distinctive design and packaging of all releases on the Screwgun label. Oddly enough, his best known work is most likely the famous plane wreck on the cover of the Beastie Boys album Licensed to Ill.
Ars Nova Workshop is a Philadelphia nonprofit jazz and experimental music presenting organization. As a facilitator between artists and their audiences, Ars Nova Workshop works to inform, inspire and challenge listeners in order to elevate the role of jazz, improvisation and experimental music in contemporary culture.