This weekend marks alto saxophonist Tim Berne's first engagements ever in Chicago, and yet in a musical sense this will be the New Yorker's return home. His virtuosity shows kinships with Chicago free-jazz pioneers Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman, themselves altoists, particularly when Berne develops freely moving, variegated lines out of minimal source materials. Even stronger is his kinship with the Chicagoans' Saint Louis pal Julius Hemphill, with whom Berne once studied; Hemphill's influence shows best in Berne's frequent taste for bop-shaped phrasing in harmonically liberated settings. At the very least, Berne is an adventuresome virtuoso; at his best, his instincts for timing, proportion, and inventive ideas make him a thoroughly soul-satisfying improviser. He'll bring with him the highly touted trumpeter Herb Robertson; Down Beat recently described Robertson's "amiable but aggressive attitude" as "like Dutch jazz masters/bad boys" (think of musical seriocomedians like Han Bennink and Willem Breuker) and claimed he "gets nutty on the bandstand." With a reputation like that, maybe it's lucky that he and Berne will be accompanied by Hamid Drake, a wonderful Chicago drummer who listens hard and can intuit just exactly what sounds and what accents will bring out the best in his mates--his straightforward sense of interplay approaches the sublime. At press time it was announced that cellist Hank Roberts will join Berne and company this weekend. Friday and Saturday, 8 PM, Southend Musicworks, 1313 S. Wabash; 939-2848.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Darren Lew.