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Insomnia album cover
The Proposal
Open, Coma
Album Information

Total Tracks: 2   Total Length: 65:54

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Wondering Sound

Review 13

Kevin Whitehead


Kevin Whitehead is the longtime jazz critic for NPR’s “Fresh Air” and author of Why Jazz? A Concise Guide (2011), New Dutch Swing (about improvised music in Ams...more »

Tim Berne, Insomnia
Label: Clean Feed / The Orchard

Saxophonist Tim Berne writes some of the slinkiest lines around, lyrical and dissonant. They slowly unfurl before, between, over and under the lively solo and collective improvisations in his long suites, on the belatedly released stunner Insomnia. It’s a great example of his art, not least for the lush textures of the octet, with Berne on alto or baritone, Baikida Carroll on trumpet and Chris Speed on clarinet, a string trio (including the invincible Mike… read more »

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Tim Berne, actually


Edit: this was originally mis-credited but has been fixed now This was recorded in 1997, but only released now in 2011.

eMusic Features


2011 Jazz: Echoing the ’70s, in a Good Way

By Kevin Whitehead, Contributor

It says something about the timeless state of modern jazz that one of 2011's memorable releases, saxophonist/composer Tim Berne's Insomnia, was recorded in 1997. Nothing about the music sounds dated: not his curvy, harmonized melodies, the ways they jostle the spirited improvising, the lushness of an octet with a built-in chamber trio (violin, cello, bass), or the sure pacing of long suite-like sets. His concept was fully developed, then as now. (ECM's putting out a… more »

They Say All Music Guide

This octet session, recorded live in the studio in June 1997 but not released until 2011, is a departure for Tim Berne. His 1990s quartet Bloodcount (with clarinetist Chris Speed, bassist Michael Formanek, and drummer Jim Black) is augmented by trumpeter Baikida Carroll, violinist Dominique Pifarély, cellist Erik Friedlander, and acoustic guitarist Marc Ducret. The disc contains only two compositions, the first running over 35 minutes and the latter a shade under 30. The music has the melodic intricacy and shifting rhythms typical to Berne’s work, but it’s got a sharper, more jagged edge; his soloing is frequently harsh, and the horns interact in ways that recall 1920s New Orleans polyphony sometimes, the Art Ensemble of Chicago other times. The influence of Julius Hemphill — whose Dogon A.D. was a major touchstone for Berne — seems evident at many points in “The Proposal,” particularly when the focus is on Erik Friedlander’s cello. But there are also the elements of Marc Ducret’s 12-string guitar and Dominique Pifarély’s violin to consider; they add gentle adornments at the edges of the ensemble, commenting perceptively on the proceedings and making the most of the lead space they’re given (as when Ducret begins “Open, Coma” with a sharply strummed acoustic passage that leads to him tapping out a rhythm on the body of the guitar like a flamenco player). This is a unique item in the Berne discography, and one that’s well worth exploring repeatedly and in depth. – Phil Freeman

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