Tim Berne and Michael Formanek

Tim Berne and Michael Formanek

Brevard Museum of Art and Science, Melbourne, FL • July 24, 1999

This show, which was eagerly anticipated, delivered the goods. Two of New York’s finest came down to Brevard to throw down a set of storming free jazz. One of the nice things about having a concert in an art gallery is the diversity of people you have there. Seeing the reaction on the faces of the some of the older folk to hard skronk is a lot of fun. The show consisted mainly of compositions from the duo’s new CD, Ornery People . These compositions were twisted, turned, and manipulated to make whole new entities of the old. Such is the nature of jazz improv.

The duo started the first set off somewhat tenaciously. They poked and probed the melodies, softly, and then gaining in magnitude. The improvisation grew defter as they progressed in the piece. Soon they were heading at full tilt. Formanek utilized a variety of playing techniques: plucking at the strings, hard staccato bowing, tapping the strings on with the bow for a percussive effect, dense fingering, and many others. Berne rotated between alto and baritone sax for a multitude of textures. The improvisations soared all over the place. Melodies were tossed back and forth, added to and taken away from, and caressed and mangled. All in all, a beautiful set.

After the intermission, it seemed that a good number of the audience had left. The duo beckoned the “hard-core fans” to come up closer. The second set was more experimental. The improvisations were much more free and dense. For the second composition, Michael Formanek introduced a “little ditty” called “Stubborn Love.” After this, Tim Berne proceeded to BLOW THE HOUSE DOWN. Formanek broke his bow; the playing was so intense. They skronked and wailed furiously. A smile crossed every face in the house.

This was a great show. Not a good show, but a great show. What was seen that night was breathtaking, two musicians trading ideas back and forth, and building something truly inspiring. Not to be missed.

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