Tim Berne / Tim Berne's Caos Totale

Pace Yourself

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Pace Yourself finds Berne's Caos Totale sextet exploring his rich, multi-layered compositions in depth and at length. Berne's pieces, especially his longer, episodic ones, tend to take unexpected twists and turns; you'll find very little of the traditional "head-solos-head" song structure here. Though most of his themes have a blues base, they emerge and disappear in conformity with their own logic, not a pre-existing formula. For example, "Sam's Dilemma" begins with a wailing, pounding motif that's almost rockishly anthemic in nature. The band slugs it out with swagger and grit and the listener expects it to form the basis for some raucous, low-down solos. Instead, the music evanesces and one is left alone with bassist Mark Dresser playing a lovely, hushed solo superficially at odds with what has preceded. This, in turn, leads into a relaxed bluesy theme that Berne, on alto, rides out with grace and restraint. Some of the pieces have a similar feel to drummer Bobby Previte's ensemble compositions from around the same time, recorded for Gramavision, but all share a richness combined with a slight acerbic tinge that keeps things from becoming overly smooth. Although all the performers are in fine form, special mention should be made of multiple brass instrumentalist Herb Robertson, whose over-the-top plunger work is a special joy.

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