The second RVAJazzfest will feature master saxophonist, composer, and band leader Tim Berne performing with Ombak, as well as Adam Larrabee Trio and Trio of Justice.
On the heels of the successful first RVAJazzfest, I’m pleased to announce the line-up and details for the second RVAJazzfest, which will take place in February 2010! The featured artist will be saxophonist Tim Berne, who will be performing with local band Ombak. Like the first RVAJazzfest with Steven Bernstein and Fight the Big Bull, Berne & Ombak will also be rehearsing and recording an album while in town.
Along with Berne & Ombak, the Adam Larrabee Trio with Randall Pharr on bass, Brian Jones on drums, and Larrabee on guitar will perform their interpretations of the music from Ellington/Mingus/Roach’s Money Jungle album. Kicking off the show will be the ever inventive Trio of Justice, the group formerly known as R2Dtoo made up of Reggie Pace on trombone, Reggie Chapman on sousaphone, and Devonne Harris on drums.
You’re going to want to mark your calendars for Saturday, February 6, 2010. The Camel will once again be the host for the evening. Music will start at 9pm, so come early and grab a seat and some dinner. Tickets will be $10 in advance and $15 at the door. More information on purchasing tickets in advance will come later, but you can click here for the full details.
Tim Berne, a disciple of such musical innovators as Anthony Braxton and Julius Hemphill, has become an influential force all his own. With several groups to his name — like Science Friction, Big Satan, Buffalo Collision, Bloodcount, Miniature, and more — the majority of his career as a musician has been serving as a leader, not a sideman (The Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson covers this and more in his lengthy interview with Berne). A true do-it-all man, Berne also operates his own record label, Screwgun Records. Over a mid-afternoon lunch on Grace Street, Ombak leader Bryan Hooten talked about what he’s learned from Berne.
“A lot of the ways that Ombak plays and the way that I write and the way that I’ve kind of gone about things,” Hooten says, “are definitely influenced by how Tim Berne has created his music.”
Hooten first became introduced to Berne’s music through his Science Friction live album The Sublime And. He was captivated by the amount of counterpoint involved and by all of the free yet very dialogic improvisation. And, of course, the beats. He says about that album and Berne’s compositional influences on him:
The first thing I noticed is that there’s no bass player. While there’s a guitar player and keyboard player in the band, nobody’s really playing chords. And that’s one of my classic Bryan Hooten catch phrases: ‘I don’t like chords.’ So I was just fascinated by the counterpoint that was going on. Everyone had a line, and because of that all of the tunes had this forward momentum. If you think about why Bach’s music was great: you could take just the alto line out of his chorales, and that by itself sounds great. It has melodic integrity, tension and release, rise and fall, all of that. So I noticed that in Tim Berne’s playing. Even with the drumming and the way the drums interact with the band, he seems to always be thinking about lines and, as a result, interlocking rhythms. And that was all really fascinating to me, which greatly influenced the way that I write.
In September ’07, after digging into his music and realizing that one of his favorite records from early on (Ray Anderson’s Big Band Record) featured Berne, Hooten went to New York City for a lesson with the saxophonist. Shortly after that, the then active Patchwork Collective hosted Berne with bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Tom Rainey for a gig in Richmond at the Firehouse Theatre.
Berne’s mark on Hooten reaches beyond compositional techniques and band-leading successes. Hooten explains:
In terms of his playing, I feel like what he’s playing is always a surprise to him. I never listen to his music and say, ‘Oh, there’s that lick.’ Or, ‘That’s that scale,’ or, ‘That’s that superimposition,’ or whatever. It seems like he really is improvising with a capital ‘I.’ He rarely repeats himself. I never hear him go to the same place, like solo to solo to solo. And I think that is a captivating thing to listen to. When you’re listening to music, it’s great to be able to grab on to something and say, ‘Oh, I recognize what THAT is.’ But, on the other hand, as soon as you start doing that, you’re not really listening anymore, you’re doing a math problem or something.
The conception of February’s weeklong residency with Berne began with Hooten sending him Ombak’s debut album Framing the Void earlier this year. Berne liked it, Hooten invited him down to record another album, and Berne accepted.
The week will involve rehearsing and recording the band’s second album, this time starring Berne. The pieces might be composed by Hooten, Berne, or any of the other Ombak members: guitarist Trey Pollard, bassist Cameron Ralston, and drummer Brian Jones. “We’ll get together and figure out what works the best, what we sound the best on, and that’s what we’ll play,” Hooten says. “But I think there will be a healthy dose of new music.”
In addition to playing at RVAJazzfest, rehearsing, and recording, plans include Berne giving a workshop at James River High School and the band taking a day off for Superbowl Sunday.
Berne’s personal journey, Hooten adds, is interesting:
He didn’t get real serious about playing music until he was in college. He didn’t have a saxophone until then. He just traveled to New York a lot, listened to people play, and became this super fan and got into it that way. Ever since he started, he’s been a leader of his own groups first and foremost and has always been doing original music. That’s inspiring to me because that’s what I’m most interested in.
photo by jason bachman