Tim Berne – Sacred Vowels (Screwgun Records, 2020)

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The circumstances with which spring 2020 has presented itself has allowed musicians more time to ruminate on projects that they have always wanted to tackle. For saxophonist Tim Berne, that has been a recording of solo saxophone, and he writes in a brief introduction on his Bandcamp page that he began writing some of the music as an exercise, but was always reluctant to make the actual recording. Berne has been a force for good in creative jazz and improvised music for decades in many settings, beginning as an acolyte of the great Julius Hemphill and developing fruitful relationships with John Zorn and the downtown scene among many others. His music was as accessible enough to get a major label contract with Columbia, and so restless that he had to form his own record label just to get his albums released and hope they get the attention they deserve. This particular record is deserving of much attention. Berne needn’t have been reticent about recording a solo saxophone LP, because the the resulting music is impressive not only in its technical facility and his creative use of the saxophone, but in the beauty and sheer joy of the music that he creates. Taking forty plus years of experience and distilling it into just one man and one horn is a brave and intimidating prospect, but Berne rises to the challenge. The tone of his horn is honest and unique and the themes that he has written allow him to show the different aspects of his musical concept in and approachable manner. Berne has been releasing a great deal of work lately for a different bands and duos, but this album shouldn’t be overlooked, it is a milestone recording from a remarkable and uncompromising artist. Sacred Vowels – Bandcamp

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