It doesn't take long for Tim Berne to assert his presence on Theoretically, his outstanding 1986 collaboration with Bill Frisell. Over the guitarist's carefully orchestrated acoustic parts, the alto player shrieks and soars like, well, Tim Berne. The overall feel of this record puts it almost into ambient territory, as Frisell's volume swells and Berne's upper register squeals blend into a single fabric of weighty yet spacious sound. It is a place where melody emerges almost as a surprise from a strangely menacing backdrop of pure atmosphere. There are moments where the music becomes quite intense, where the layer upon layer of guitar and saxophone create an extremely unsettling feeling in the mind of the listener, but also moments of relative peace, although never without something disturbing lurking around the edges. There are also moments that appear more traditional, in which the Monkish quality of Frisell's music comes to the forefront, as on the charming head to "Preview." It all works, no doubt about it, but there is room to question the quality of the source material. Overall, this is a good, if not particularly great, album from two musicians at the top of their game.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Daniel Gioffre