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Tim Berne saxophone player


Tim Berne was born in Syracuse, New York in 1954, and was subjected to a perfectly normal childhood. But he didn't decide to take up music until nearly twenty years later when he was attending Lewis and Clark College in Oregon, putting most of his energy into intramural basketball. At this point, while resting a sore ankle in his dormitory, Berne encountered a saxophonist who was selling his alto, and bought it on impulse. "There was just something about the sound of the saxophone that got to me," he says.
Musically, up to that point, Berne had always been motivated by all types of music, but especially by the great Stax artists like Sam and Dave and Johnnie Taylor, as well as Motown artists like Martha and the Vandellas and Gladys Knight. This passion for the soulful quality in music would follow him for the rest of his career, a career that he could not possibly foreseen at the time. "I hadn't listened to much jazz, but then I heard Julius Hemphill's album Dogon A.D., and that completely turned me around. It captured everything I liked in music. It had this Stax/R&B sensibility and it had this other wildness. It was incredible. That's when I started playing."

Berne moved to New York in 1974, sought Hemphill out, and entered into a sort-of apprenticeship with the elder musician. The "lessons" they had together lasted for hours and covered everything from composition to record promotion to recording to pasting up handbills to aspects of magic and spirituality and, sometimes, even playing the saxophone. "From the beginning," Berne says, "even while I was still learning to play the saxophone, Julius always encouraged me to write my own music as well. So it never occurred to me that most people don't play their own music or aren't bandleaders. I thought that was just part of it. You learn how to play music, you start a band, and that's it. Julius didn't offer me one system, but a lot of possibilities, with the emphasis always on ideas and sound."

Berne began issuing his own albums on his own Empire label in 1979. Over the next five years he would record and distribute five albums under his own name which included such musicians as Ed Schuller, Olu Dara, Paul Motian, John Carter, Glenn Ferris and Bill Frisell. Following two recordings for the Italian Soul Note label, Berne recorded Fulton Street Maul and Sanctified Dreams for Columbia Records. These recordings coincided with an increasingly active worldwide touring schedule.

In 1988 Berne began a long relationship with the JMT label with the first of two recordings with the co-operative Miniature (with Joey Baron and Hank Roberts). In 1989 Berne's JMT release Fractured Fairy Tales was hailed as a masterpiece by the New York Times. Berne's JMT legacy climaxed with the historic Paris Concerts given by his quartet bloodcount, released in three volumes (Lowlife, Poisoned Minds and Memory Select). These recordings have received unanimous praise. Since 1994, bloodcount has performed over 250 concerts worldwide.

In 1996 Berne once again founded his own record label, Screwgun, and released a three CD set of live recordings by bloodcount, Unwound. He also had a new string quartet, dry ink, silence, premiered by the Kronos Quartet at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. 1997 has found Berne touring the U.S. and Europe with bloodcount, writing music for large ensemble on commission, and preparing the next three Screwgun releases by his bands bloodcount and Paraphrase. In addition, a recording of The Visible Man, a piece commissioned in 1992 for the Rova Saxophone Quartet, has just been issued on a disc called The Works, Volume 2 on the Black Saint label.


Shifting Foundation
New York State Council on the Arts
New York State Foundation for the Arts
Readers Digest/Meet the Composer (for the Kronos Quartet and the Rova Saxophone Quartet)
Birmingham Jazz (for Caos Totale with Django Bates)
British Arts Council Touring Fellowship for 1997

Djerassi Foundation (California)
MacDowell Colony (New Hampshire)

maatern mooijman


It's not an exhaustive list.


other works

1979 The Five Year Plan Empire
1980 7x Empire
1981 Spectres Empire
1982 Songs and Rituals in Real Time Empire
1983 The Ancestors Soul Note
1984 Mutant Variations Soul Note
1987 Fulton Street Maul Columbia, reissued by Koch
1987 Sanctified Dreams Columbia, reissued by Koch
1989 Fractured Fairy Tales JMT
1991 Caos Totale - Pace Yourself JMT
1993 Diminutive Mysteries (mostly Hemphill) JMT
1994 Caos Totale - Nice View JMT
1995 Bloodcount: Lowlife JMT
1995 Bloodcount: Poisoned Minds JMT
1995 Bloodcount: Memory Select JMT
1996 Bloodcount: Unwound Screwgun
1997 Bloodcount: Discretion Screwgun
1997 Bloodcount: Saturation Point Screwgun
1998 Empire Box Screwgun

1999 Paraphrase: Please Advise Screwgun
2001 The Shell Game thirsty ear
2002 Open, Coma Screwgun
2003 Science Friction Screwgun
2003 The Sevens new world

(Hank Roberts and Joey Baron)

1988 Miniature JMT
1991 I Can't Put My Finger on It JMT


1986 Theoretically (w/ Bill Frisell) Empire, reissued by Minor Music
1993 Loose Cannon (w/ Michael Formanek & Jeff Hirshfield) Soul Note
1995 Inference (w/ Marilyn Crispell) Music & Arts
1997 Big Satan: I Think They Liked It, Honey (w/ Marc Ducret & Tom Rainey) Winter & Winter
1997 Paraphrase: Visitation Rites (w/ Drew Gress & Tom Rainey) Screwgun
1998 Ornery People (w/ Michael Formanek) Little Brother
1998 Cause & Reflect (w/ Hank Roberts) Level Green
1999 Paraphrase: Please Advise (w/ Drew Gress & Tom Rainey) Screwgun


1994 Ray Anderson - Big Band Record Gramavision
1991 The Bang - Omonimo Nueva
1988 Nels Cline - Angelica Enja
1994 Figure 8 (ROVA Saxophone Quartet + 4) - Pipe Dreams Black Saint
1992 Michael Formanek - Extended Animation Enja
1994 Michael Formanek - Low Profile Enja
1996 Michael Formanek - Nature of the Beast Enja
1984 Vinny Golia Large Ensemble - Compositions for Large Ensemble Nine Winds
1986 Vinny Golia Large Ensemble - Facts of Their Own Lives Nine Winds
1985 Mark Helias - Split Image Enja (out of print)
1987 Mark Helias - The Current Set Enja
1994 Julius Hemphill Sextet - Five Chord Stud Black Saint
1993 Peter Herborn - Something Personal JMT
1991 Lindsey Horner - Never No More Open Minds
1996 Lee Hyla - We Speak Etruscan New World
1988 Hank Roberts - Black Pastels JMT
1985 Herb Robertson - Transparency JMT
1987 Herb Robertson - X-Cerpts Live at Willisau JMT
1986 John Zorn - The Big Gundown Elektra Nonesuch
1988 John Zorn - Spy Vs. Spy - The Music of Ornette Coleman Elektra Musician
1986 Various Artists - The Little Trumpet JMT