By Paul de Barros | Published October 2020
Guitarist David Torn’s atmospheric airiness combines nicely with saxophonist Tim Berne’s funky earthiness on this fluid, electro-acoustic free-jazz outing, with drummer/electronics man Ches Smith zig-zagging in between.
A follow-up to the trio’s excellent 2019 ECM album, (Congratulations To You) consists of two tracks, each just under 14 minutes long, bookending a 28-minute piece. The trio careens through an astonishing variety of moods, textures, dynamic levels and colors in an Ornette-meets-Hendrix style that expands and contracts like an organic being.
Berne kicks things off with a crisp alto sound, then switches to telegraphic bari (à la Hamiet Bluiett) on the opener, “Bat Tears,” followed by electronic chirps that could be a message dispatched into space, looking to connect with aliens. “Coco Tangle,” the long middle piece here, lives up to its title from the get-go, with Berne worrying an Ornette-like ramble, then conversing with himself via digital delay. Intimations of India, industrial clanking, rock distortion and lyrical weeping seep from Torn’s guitar and electronics. Smith runs the gamut, moving from hard-hitting, artfully dribbling snare-tom work to ambient or “chk-chk”-ing cymbals.
The closing title track is a bacchanalian “congratulations.”
Though the album’s extremity at times might not be to every listener’s liking, the trio still represents spontaneous music-making of the highest order, and with an original sound all its own.
(Congratulations To You): Bat Tears; Coco Tangle; Congratulations To You. (56:28)
Personnel: David Torn, guitar, electronics; Tim Berne, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone; Ches Smith, drums, electronics.