Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Bloodcount - Seconds

Bloodcount - Seconds (Screwgun)

I figured this set would generate a little more fanfare upon its release. Bloodcount was one of the more exciting of the explolatory jazz groups during the mid '90s. Lead by Tim Berne (alto, baritone saxophone), it included Chris Speed (tenor sax, clarinet), Michael Formanek (bass) and Jim Black (drums). As good as Berne's group around the late '80s/early /90s was (which included drummer Joey Baron and bassist Mark Dresser), he really hit the mark with this quartet which sort of set a standard that he seems to continue with his current projects. They specialized in extended compositions, some lasting upwards of 40 minutes. Jagged melodies would often cut off on weird beats or suddenly change your perception from freedom to riff; Black whacked his kit like Elvin Jones doing repair work on an old car, while Formanek would hold down the fort with solid lines as Berne and Speed would run at each other like crazy.

Seconds consists of two live discs and a DVD of a performance film which, in keeping with their other work, consists of one 50-some minute composition. Berne's deadpan humor comes across in the packaging, describing Disc One as "live in the middle of somewhere," recorded with "an obsolete format no longer used by professionals." I can only wonder if it was recorded in Pittsburgh, where they played that year or thereabout. He had a DAT machine set up to record, which might be said antiquated format. Disc Three was recorded at the Children of the Corn Festival, which is probably another wiseguy description.

Several of the songs on Seconds have appeared on previous Bloodcount discs. "Yes, Dear" even appears here twice, making its third or fourth documentation. "Mr. Johnson," "Byram's World" and "Screwgun" have also appeared previously. But they all deserve another examination even if all of Bloodcount's discs -three for Screwgun, plus three more originally on JMT - line your CD shelves. I've listened to everything several times and I've yet to be able to pinpoint the similarities between the two "Yes Dear"s for instance. Berne has certainly crafted his own style and sense of soloing but newer tracks like "Scrap Metal" and "Sense and Sinsemilla" reveal new qualities in terms of melody and group interaction, sealing the deal and making this a mandatory purchase.

Guitarist Marc Ducret, a frequent member and a Berne collaborator in current projects, appears in the film. Eyenoises doesn't work like a traditional performance film, giving more space to off-center closeups of faces and instruments. It seems like the audio and video don't exactly match most of the time. In fact, the former sounds a lot to these ears like the version of "Eye Contact" on the band's JMT release. So in the end, it's more of a quality bonus to a strong package.

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