Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Tim Berne's Acoustic Hard Cell

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Most of saxophonist Tim Berne's work this decade has prominently featured electric and electronic instrumentation (often courtesy of keyboardist Craig Taborn and guitarist Marc Ducret), and until one gig in England last year the sound of this trio--Berne, Taborn, and drummer Tom Rainey--was largely defined by the Fender Rhodes electric piano. But no Rhodes was available that night, meaning Taborn had to adapt the material for grand piano; the results were so good that Berne stuck with the format. Two tracks like this turn up on last year's Electric and Acoustic Hard Cell Live (Screwgun): taking the Rhodes's liquid decay out of the mix makes the fleet push-and-pull interactions between Berne and Taborn snappier and more precise than ever. Berne's compositions remain lengthy and labyrinthine: they duck and weave like an overcaffeinated boxer, their tightly coiled profusions of sixteenth notes stoked by Rainey's stuttery, kinetic drumming. All three musicians play with time like it's taffy, playfully rolling behind and ahead of the beat. And though it can sometimes feel like everyone's spinning off in different directions, the music always turns back from the brink of chaos to coalesce with a brilliant herky-jerk funkiness. Mon 3/14, 7 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. Free. All ages.

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