This octet session, recorded live in the studio in June 1997 but not released until 2011, is a departure for Tim Berne. His 1990s quartet Bloodcount (with clarinetist Chris Speed, bassist Michael Formanek, and drummer Jim Black) is augmented by trumpeter Baikida Carroll, violinist Dominique Pifarély, cellist Erik Friedlander, and acoustic guitarist Marc Ducret. The disc contains only two compositions, the first running over 35 minutes and the latter a shade under 30. The music has the melodic intricacy and shifting rhythms typical to Berne's work, but it's got a sharper, more jagged edge; his soloing is frequently harsh, and the horns interact in ways that recall 1920s New Orleans polyphony sometimes, the Art Ensemble of Chicago other times. The influence of Julius Hemphill -- whose Dogon A.D. was a major touchstone for Berne -- seems evident at many points in "The Proposal," particularly when the focus is on Erik Friedlander's cello. But there are also the elements of Marc Ducret's 12-string guitar and Dominique Pifarély's violin to consider; they add gentle adornments at the edges of the ensemble, commenting perceptively on the proceedings and making the most of the lead space they're given (as when Ducret begins "Open, Coma" with a sharply strummed acoustic passage that leads to him tapping out a rhythm on the body of the guitar like a flamenco player). This is a unique item in the Berne discography, and one that's well worth exploring repeatedly and in depth.
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AllMusic Review by Phil Freeman