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Prime TimesJazz at Atlas presents Tim Berne’s Snakeoil

Jazz at Atlas presents Tim Berne’s Snakeoil

Jazz at Atlas proudly presents the legendary saxophonist and composer Tim Berne leading his group Snakeoil.

Touring in support of their new album on ECM Records, “Incidentals,” Snakeoil features Berne on alto saxophone, Oscar Noriega on clarinet and bass clarinet, Ryan Ferreira on guitar, Matt Mitchell on piano and electronics, and Ches Smith on drums and percussion.

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil will perform on Thursday, September 14 at 8 p.m. at Atlas Studios as part of the Jazz at Atlas program. General admission will be $20 at the door. Atlas Studios is located at 11 Spring Street in Newburgh, NY.

Tim Berne has been described as “a saxophonist and composer of granite conviction” by The New York Times. “Incidentals” is the fourth album from his spirited Snakeoil band and the second (following on from 2015’s “You’ve Been Watching Me”) to feature the quintet line-up in which his core group with clarinetist Oscar Noriega, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer/vibraphonist Ches Smith is augmented by guitarist Ryan Ferreira. The music is characteristically action-packed in the Berne tradition: powerful, dynamic, often fast-moving – yet also very clear in all its teeming detail.

“We somehow achieved more sonic space by adding another player,” the bandleader notes wonderingly.

“Incidentals” is the fourth ECM album from alto saxophonist Tim Berne’s dynamic Snakeoil band. Complete and self-contained, it can also be considered a partner volume to the 2015 release “You’ve Been Watching Me,” further documenting a period in the band’s life in which the energetic core group of Berne, fellow reedman Oscar Noriega, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer/percussionist/vibraphonist Ches Smith was augmented by guitarist Ryan Ferreira, whose textural playing and floating, ambient sound-colors both thickened the plot and leavened the density.

Ferreira had been introduced to Berne by Matt Mitchell, guitarist and pianist having attended the same music school. “I’m always on the lookout for guitar players”, says Berne, “always looking for new blood.” He and Ferreira played duo for about a year, improvising freely, before the guitarist was invited to join a Snakeoil concert. “I gave him a great pile of music, and he learned it. The job required a player who was content not to be a soloist. It was almost like having a far-out keyboard player in the band, and it gave me a few more options, compositionally.” There was also a wish to subvert and challenge the modus operandi of the group. Over several years, the four piece Snakeoil had become very tight, “and when something starts to work well I like to throw something else in, to see if I still have the touch, and just to see what happens.”

Since learning at the elbow of St. Louis master Julius Hemphill in the ’70s, the Syracuse, NY-born Berne has built an expansive discography as a leader. In his ensembles over the past few decades, he has worked with improvisers including Joey Baron, Django Bates, Jim Black, Nels Cline. Mark Dresser, Marc Ducret, Michael Formanek, Drew Gress, Ethan Iverson, Dave King, Herb Robertson, Chris Speed, Steve Swell, Bobby Previte, Hank Roberts, Tom Rainey and Craig Taborn. As a sideman, Berne has made ECM appearances on albums by Formanek (The Rub and Spare Change, Small Places, The Distance) and David Torn (prezens). The New York Times summed him up by saying: “Few musicians working in or around jazz over the last 30 years have developed an idiomatic signature more distinctive than Tim Berne.”

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