Berne, Tim

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Berne, Tim

Berne, Tim, eclectic jazz alto saxophonist; b. Syracuse, N.Y., Jan. 16, 1954. He didn’t begin playing alto until 19, when he was attending Lewis and Clark Coll. in Ore. He was deeply affected by Julius Hemphill’s album Dogon A.D., which established his direction. He moved to N.Y. (1974), sought Hemphill out, and entered into an apprenticeship with the elder musician. The “lessons” they had together lasted for hours and covered everything from composition to record promotion to recording to pasting up handbills to aspects of magic and spirituality and, sometimes, even playing the saxophone; Berne was also greatly helped by studies with Anthony Braxton. He established his own label and made his first two recordings on the West Coast before moving back to N.Y. He has worked with Vinny Golia, Alex Cline, Roberto Miranda, Olu Darà, Ed Schuller, John Zorn, Marilyn Crispell, and Paul Motian, among others; Berne also headed the group Miniature with Hank Roberts and Joey Baron. From 1994–7, his group Bloodcount performed over 250 concerts worldwide. Many of his recordings were released on his own labels, Empire and Screwgun. In 1996, his string quartet piece, “dry ink, silence,” was premiered by the Kronos Quartet at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. This and the Visible Man (1992) were supported by Readers Digest/Meet the Composer grants; he has also received awards from the N.Y. State Council on the Arts, N.Y. State Foundation for the Arts, and been in residence at the MacDowell Colony. Berne is a hard driving eclectic whose albums have included strains of free jazz, hard bop, rock, pop, fusion, various international, even contemporary classical elements.


Five Year Plan (1979); 7x (1980); Songs and Rituals in Real Time (1981); Theoretically (1983); Mutant Variations (1983); Ancestors (1983); Fulton Street Maul (1986); Sanctified Dreams (1988); Fractured Fairy Tales (1989); Pace Yourself: Tim Berne’s Caos (1990); Diminutive Mysteries (1992); Nice View (1993); Poisoned Minds (1994); Lowlife (1994); Unwound (1996); Memory Select (1994).

—Lewis Porter