Tim Berne's Snakeoil is proof the square peg does indeed fit the round hole!
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
The music of Tim Berne in general and Snakeoil in particular defies traditional categorization as labels are best left for cans of soup. Shadowman much like the evocative cover art is a lyrical enigma. Post hard bop meets free jazz in a deceptively subtle and incredibly intimate presentation of all things possible when the more accepted conventional forms of the two genres mentioned are gently pushed aside in favor of following the creative muse of the last improvisational rebel. The synergy of this 4tet is highlighted with the earthy almost visceral counterpoint of clarinetist Oscar Noriega and the deal is certainly sealed with perhaps New York's finest rhythm section in pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Ches Smith.
Tim Berne posses the remarkable ability to say more in two bars than some contemporaries can in two minutes. Shadowman has the zen like approach of a deconstructed riff on the artist and his harmonic wheelhouse. At times acoustically ambient while maintaining a stunning lyrical command of the counterpoint that seems to encircle this most dynamic of ensembles. You listen. If you begin to approach Shadowman from a purely theoretical approach then you miss the inherent beauty and striking depth, a three dimensional sonic depth of field. An organic pulse, a melodic heartbeat. You feel Shadowman.
There are players that approach the more free style or open-ended improvisational style of music with a foot to the floor intensity. Tim Berne's intensity is seemingly channeled inward while maintaining the ability to touch your heart and set your hair on fire almost simultaneously. Contrary to popular opinion there is no one specific ECM sound much like each Tim Berne release is uniquely different. Berne is tapping into a place far deeper than the soul. You never review genius. You celebrate it.