This is a past event.
When: Sat., Oct. 19, 9:30 p.m. 2013
Price: $15, $12 in advance
Saxophonist Tim Berne has always made unrelentingly dense and detailed music, its churn of elements tangling in ever-shifting ways. His various bands—Caos Totale, Bloodcount, Miniature—wield a powerful weight but never sound stolid or leaden. Berne’s love of counterpoint underpins all his work, and in Snakeoil—his latest group, with clarinetist Oscar Noriega, pianist Matt Mitchell, and percussionist Ches Smith—the slashing lines, lockstep interplay, and harmonic jousting sound more freewheeling and intense than ever. The whole quartet, not just the front line, gets in on the melodic action—Mitchell adds kaleidoscopic turbulence, and Smith conjures ringing dissonance on vibraphone (he plays drums too). Snakeoil’s brand-new second album, Shadow Man (ECM), is hardly an easy listen; even Berne and Mitchell’s duo reading of Paul Motian’s gorgeously pensive ballad “Psalm” is thick with brooding harmonies and linear collisions. But part of the pleasure of listening to this band is trying to parse the performances, noticing how all the moving parts fit together and detecting where searing improvisation emerges from the rigorous composed material. On the multipartite “OC/DC” (the three final tracks range in length from 16 to 23 minutes) a tightly coiled matrix of lines constantly disassembles and reconfigures itself, coming together in written-out passages and disintegrating in spontaneous flurries. All four musicians react to one another with the intimacy of a chamber group, interpreting Berne’s thorny compositions with focused virtuosity and selflessness. This is Snakeoil’s overdue Chicago debut. —Peter Margasak

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