Whirligig VII – The Thing & SnakeOil
Two adventurous bands that will permanently rewire your perceptions of acceptable jazz behaviour.
Snake Oil is the latest creation from saxophone toting Tim Berne, whose prolific output has been at the sharp end of the New York scene for a decade and more. This rugged individual has a new band to breathe life into his famously gnarly compositions, with Oscar Noriega’s earthy clarinet, the elusive piano playing of Matt Mitchell and the tonally responsive drummer Ches Smith. Encoded rhythms and long, seductive melodies are confronted by jagged dissonance and abrupt textural shifts in a corrupted chamber group set up that’s just made its debut release for ECM. Acoustic, electric, through- composed and improvised music are all grist to Berne’s provocative mill, and Snake Oil is shaping up to be his best work to date.
Free jazz has seldom sounded as exhilarating and life affirming as within the maelstrom of sonic energy unleashed by The Thing. Barely subduing the volatile materials are three outstanding European musicians in Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustaffson and Norwegians, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. Such is their ubiquity and obvious rapport, the latter pair has been waggishly dubbed the Sly 'n' Robbie of improvised music. Most saxophonists would wilt in such an environment, but not the sonically thuggish and technically daring Gustaffson, who relishes the searing intensity, as collectively they go about their transgressive work on songs from sources as diverse as PJ Harvey and Don Cherry, The White Stripes and Ornette Coleman.