Greg Belisle-Chi

Koi: Performing The Music Of Tim Berne
(Relative Pitch)

While Tim Berne has been making records for 42 years, only recently have other musicians taken on his work. In 2017, his long-time pianist Matt Mitchell offered Førage, a solo recitation of medleys that mixed and matched themes from throughout Berne’s career. Now comes Koi, by guitarist Greg Belisle-Chi. It is sanctioned by the composer, and producer/guitarist David Torn, who has worked repeatedly with Berne in several capacities, mixed and mastered it.

Despite these associations, it presents a thoroughly independent take on Berne’s music on several levels. The instrumentation alone constitutes a radical step away from the composer’s sound world, since the steel-stringed acoustic guitar barely figures in his discography. Second, while Berne and his musicians often blow forcefully and at length, Belisle-Chi’s renditions emphasize elegant melodies and contrapuntal elements. By toning down the attack, other feelings come into play. “Middle Seat Blues” begins with wry humor and ends with a dissonance. And Belisle-Chi negotiates the intricate switchbacks of “Huh/Brokelyn” with an unruffled reflectiveness. It’s easy savor the guitarist’s transparent presentation without knowing anything about Berne’s music.