Friday, February 15th, 2008 ... 3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. ... KZSU, 90.1 FM

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So, yes, I got to see Tim Berne and Bloodcount in Philadelphia last weekend -- Feb. 10, 2008. As noted before, they're back together for a few gigs to play some new compositions by Berne. They did not disappoint.

They played three long pieces (titles approximate):

  1. Yep Already/Cause and Reflect
  2. Stop That Ticking
  3. It's a Machine's World/False Impressions/Deadbeat Beyonce
Timings were someting like 20 minutes for the first two and 40 for the ending suite. I may be way off, but the third piece was significantly longer than either of the first two.

A lot of the old Bloodcount elements were in place, including the way improvisations glided into composed segments. Pretty much everybody in jazz does that, but there's more of a puzzle-solving aspect to it with Bloodcount.

The composing did bring out elements I hadn't heard before with the band. Piece (1) (I'll just refer to the three pieces using parentheticals) included Michael Formanek's bowed bass and Chris Speed's tenor sax setting up long pedal harmonies, with the sax quiet enough to make it hard to tell which instrument was playing which note. That made for a shadowy backdrop for Berne and Jim Black -- really nice.

I think it was (2) made a sudden turn into a snappy, rocking two-note theme between the bass and drums in double time, a really nice transition that caught me by surprise.

(3) was the tour de force -- not just for its length, but for its exhiliarating nature. On record, it's hard to tell just how exhausting this music must be to play, but here, after the first long segment gave way to a drum solo, you could see the other three players were glad for a break. That does include Formanek on bass, who was furiously driving through some painful looking intervals; he remarked later that he likes using a smaller bass for Bloodcount because of the demanding parts he's handed.

That third piece opened with a gutsy two-sax solo and later gave Black and Formanek some unaccompanied time each. Both killed with their solos, particularly Black, who's just able to push so much sound with his drum kit.

In all, plenty of fire, and plenty of fuel for thought. The show drew more than 100 people to the International House theater, which I'm not sure holds more than 150, so it was a nicely packed crowd.

The best part: extra chances to hear the new compositions again, if you're in New York. Bloodcount's going to be at The Stone on April 13 at at Barbes in Brooklyn on June 11 and 12.

Some background: I got to meet Mark, whose Ars Nova Workshop puts on all kinds of great music shows around Philadelphia. (Susie Ibarra played the previous Friday, for instance.) Seems the Bloodcount reunion was sort of his doing -- he's been bugging Berne about it for the past decade. Berne finally relented, having reached a point where he was ready to try new twists with the band.

All four members have busy careers, thougn, so they can't convene often for rehearsal. Berne got sheet music to each of them, and I guess everyone had to learn the songs on their own. They sat down for one long rehearsal just before the debut show at Joe's Pub on Feb. 3.

This trip used up all my travel karma, so I don't think I'll be seeing any of the New York shows. That's OK. It was privilege enough just being able to experience this band again. (Aside: I think I've now seen Tim Berne perform six times in six different cities.)

Now we can all send Berne pesky e-mails asking when these sessions get released on CD.

Horizontal lines denote microphone breaks.

(No playlist this week -- had to bow out due to illness. David Bug substituted.)

* = Item in KZSU rotation
! = Pop anomaly
? = Item not in KZSU library

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