The Music of Tim Berne as Never Heard Before: Screwgun Records Presents Pianist Matt Mitchell’s Deeply Beautiful Solo Refractions of Berne Compositions on the Album førage, for Release March 31, 2017
Mitchell re-imagines pieces from across the composer’s songbook as multi-dimensional essays for solo piano, devising mash-ups, improvising new angles, revealing sublimities – with the album produced by studio wizard David Torn
The compositions of iconic saxophonist/bandleader Tim Berne have earned renown for their intensely kinetic, dizzyingly intricate quality as performed around the world by his various groups over the past four decades. With the album førage – to be released digitally and on CD by Screwgun Records on March 31, 2017 – listeners have the chance to experience Berne’s music as never before, in versions for solo piano. Virtuoso pianist Matt Mitchell, a member of Berne’s hit band Snakeoil, has explored the full range of the composer’s songbook. In fact, Berne says: “No one knows my music better than Matt. He might know it even better than I do at this point.”
On førage, Mitchell devises mash-ups of multiple compositions, improvises new angles off the music, and often slows it down to reveal heretofore hidden beauties – limpid harmonies and ruminative melodies, like dark pearls unspooled. This is the first music-only physical product from Berne’s imprint Screwgun in years, the saxophonist having lately released the three most widely acclaimed albums of his career via ECM. Studio maestro David Torn – a longtime sonic co-conspirator with Berne, as well as producer of Mitchell’s past two albums – helmed the recording of førage. The cover artwork and distinctive CD package is by Steven Byram, who has worked hand in glove with Berne for decades – including the recent Screwgun publication of their joint art book, Spare.
Berne was aptly named one of New York City’s essential jazz icons by Time Out New York, while the UK’s Jazzwise magazine underscored the growing stature of his music by declaring it “suffused with genuine humanity and more than a little wisdom.” The New York Times praised Mitchell – who has also worked with the likes of Dave Douglas and John Hollenbeck – as “a pianist of burrowing focus and an indispensable fixture of the contemporary vanguard.” Mitchell’s quartet album Vista Accumulation on Pi Recordings placed in the top 20 of NPR’s 2015 Critic’s Poll, with web journal Point of Departure praising his pianism for the way it “synthesizes sounds and idioms with breathtaking ease.” The two musicians met in 2009, when Mitchell opened for one of the saxophonist’s ensembles in Philadelphia by performing an entire set of Berne’s music, with the pianist having spent a year re-conceiving band scores as solo vehicles. Knocked out by Mitchell’s conception and performance, Berne soon drafted the keyboardist into Snakeoil, which has toured across North America and Europe along with releasing the three ECM albums (not to mention a live recording included as part of the Spare book).