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Torn, David / Tim Berne / Ches Smith: Sun Of Goldfinger (ECM)

The fourth ECM album from NY Saxophonist Tim Berne and drummer Ches Smith, here in a trio with textural guitarist David Torn in three extended compositions merging jazz, rock and ambient forms, the middle track augmented with the Scorchio String Quartet and Craig Taborn, as they ebb and flow intense energy, fascinating compositional turns, and superb playing.

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product information:

UPC: 602577319198

Label: ECM
Catalog ID: ECM 2613
Squidco Product Code: 27258

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2019
Country: Germany
Packaging: Jewel Case
Recorded at The Bunker, in Brooklyn, New York, at Brooklyn Recording, in Brooklyn, New York, EMPAC Troy, New York, and Isokon Studios, in Woodstock, New York, in September, 2015, and August, 2018, by Adam Tilzer, Nolan Thies and Daniel James Goodwin.


Tim Berne-alto saxophone

Ches Smith-drums, electronics, Tanbou

David Torn-electric guitar, loops, electronics

Leah Coloff-cello (track 2)

Craig Taborn-electronics, piano (track 2)

Mike Baggetta-guitar (track 2)

Ryan Ferreira-guitar (track 2)

Amy Kimball-violin (track 2)

Leah Coloff-violin (track 2)

Martha Mooke-viola (track 2)

Rachel Golub-violin (track 2)

Martha Mooke-violin (track 2)

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Artist Biographies:

"Tim Berne (born 1954) is an American jazz saxophonist and composer.

Described by critic Thom Jurek as commanding "considerable power as a composer and ... frighteningly deft ability as a soloist", Berne has composed and performed prolifically since the 1980s. His mainstream success has been limited Berne recorded two albums for Columbia Records but he has released a significant body of work over the decades spanning dozens of critically acclaimed recordings.

Though Berne was a music fan, he had no interest in playing a musical instrument until he was in college, when he purchased an alto saxophone. He was more interested in rhythm and blues music Stax records releases and Aretha Franklin, especially until he heard Julius Hemphill's 1972 recording Dogon A.D.

Hemphill was known for his integration of soul music and funk with free jazz. Berne moved to New York City in 1974. There Berne took lessons from Hemphill, and later recorded with him.

In 1979, Berne founded Empire Records to release his own recordings. He recorded Fulton Street Maul and Sanctified Dreams for Columbia Records, which generated some discussion and controversy, due in part to the fact that Berne's music had little in common with the neo-tradionalist hard bop performers prominent in the mid-1980s. Some regarded Berne's music as uncommercial. In the late 1990s Berne founded Screwgun Records, which has released his own recordings, as well as others' music.

Beyond his recordings as a bandleader, Berne has recorded and/or performed with guitarist Bill Frisell, avant-garde composer/sax player John Zorn, violinist Mat Maneri, guitarist David Torn, cellist Hank Roberts, trumpet player Herb Robertson, the ARTE Quartett and as a member of the cooperative trio Miniature.

Recent years have found Berne performing in several different groups with drummers Tom Rainey and Gerald Cleaver, keyboardist Craig Taborn, bassists Michael Formanek and Drew Gress, guitarists Marc Ducret and David Torn, and reeds player Chris Speed.

He is one-third of the group BBC (Berne/Black/Cline) along with drummer Jim Black and Nels Cline of Wilco. The group released a critically acclaimed album called The Veil in 2011.

Berne's complex, multi-section compositions are often quite lengthy; twenty- to thirty-minute pieces are not unusual. One critic wrote that Berne's long songs "don't grow tiresome. The musicians are brilliantly creative and experienced enough not to get lost in all the room provided by these large time frames." "

-Wikipedia (

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"Born in San Diego, CA and raised in Sacramento, Ches Smith came up in a scene of punks and metal musicians who were listening to and experimenting with jazz and free improvisation. He studied philosophy at the University of Oregon before relocating to the San Francisco Bay area in 1995. After a few years of playing with obscure bands and intensive study with drummer / educator Peter Magadini, he enrolled in the graduate program at Mills College in Oakland at the suggestion of percussionist William Winant. There he studied percussion, improvisation, and composition with Winant, Fred Frith, Pauline Oliveros and Alvin Curran. One of Winant's first "assignments" for Ches was to sub in his touring gig at the time, Mr. Bungle (here he met bassist / composer Trevor Dunn who would later hire him for the second incarnation of his Trio-Convulsant). During his time at Mills, Ches co-founded two bands: Theory of Ruin (with Fudgetunnel / Nailbomb frontman Alex Newport), and Good for Cows (w/ Nels Cline Singers' Devin Hoff). He currently performs and records with Xiu Xiu, and Secret Chiefs 3. He has also performed with Ben Goldberg, Annie Gosfield, Wadada Leo Smith, John Tchicai, Fred Frith, and Trevor Dunn. In addition to Ceramic Dog, he also leads his two of his own projects, Congs for Brums and These Arches. He currently spends his time between Los Angeles, San Francisco and Brooklyn."

-Ches Smith Website (

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"Improviser, film composer and soundscape artist - approached the far sonic edges of what one man and a guitar can create with only sky, a solo recording of almost orchestral atmosphere. This album followed Torn's 2007's acclaimed prezens, a full-band project for ECM (featuring Tim Berne, Craig Taborn & Tom Rainey) that Jazzwise described as "a vibrating collage full of shimmering sonic shapes, a dark, urban electronic soundscape - a potent mix of jazz, free-form rock and technology that is both demanding and rewarding." Many of those same descriptors apply to only sky, with its hovering ambient shadows and vaulting flashes of light, its channelling of deep country/blues memories and Burroughsian dreams of North Africa. Nearly 30 years before the release of only sky came Torn's ECM album Cloud About Mercury, with trumpeter Mark Isham and the latter-day King Crimson rhythm section of Tony Levin and Bill Bruford.

Torn's initial tenure with ECM also included Best Laid Plans, his 1984 release with drummer Geoffrey Gordon; and the guitarist featured on Jan Garbarek's album It's OK to Listen to the Gray Voice. More recently, Torn produced and mixed saxophonist Tim Berne's ECM albums Shadow Man (2013) and You've Been Watching Me (2015). Torn, a native of New York state, has worked across jazz (with the Bad Plus and others), film music (Ryuichi Sakamoto, Carter Burwell) and pop (David Bowie, Jeff Beck, David Sylvian and more)."

-ECM (

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"Craig Marvin Taborn (/ˈteɪˌbɔːrn/; born February 20, 1970) is an American pianist, organist, keyboardist and composer. He works solo and in bands, mostly playing various forms of jazz. He started playing piano and Moog synthesizer as an adolescent and was influenced at an early stage by a wide range of music, including by the freedom expressed in recordings of free jazz and contemporary classical music.

While at university, Taborn toured and recorded with jazz saxophonist James Carter. Taborn went on to play with numerous other musicians in electronic and acoustic settings, while also building a reputation as a solo pianist. He has a range of styles, and often adapts his playing to the nature of the instrument and the sounds that he can make it produce. His improvising, particularly for solo piano, often adopts a modular approach, in which he begins with small units of melody and rhythm and then develops them into larger forms and structures.

In 2011, Down Beat magazine chose Taborn as winner of the electric keyboard category, as well as rising star in both the piano and organ categories. By May 2016, Taborn had released six albums under his own name and appeared on more than eighty as a sideman."

-Wikipedia (

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track listing:

1. Eye Meddle 23:55

2. Spartan, Before It Hit 22:10

3. Soften The Blow 22:50
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Guitarist-composer David Torn, a longstanding ECM artist, has enjoyed a particularly fruitful 21st-century with the label, releasing two albums under his own name - the solo only sky and quartet disc prezens - in addition to producing records by Tim Berne and Michael Formanek. With Sun of Goldfinger, Torn returns in a trio alongside the alto saxophonist Berne and percussionist Ches Smith (a member of Berne's Snakeoil band who made his ECM leader debut in 2016 with The Bell).

The Torn/Berne/Smith trio, also dubbed Sun of Goldfinger, features alone on two of this album's three intense tracks of 20-plus minutes; the vast sonic tapestries of "Eye Muddle" and "Soften the Blow" - each spontaneous group compositions - belie the fact that only a trio is weaving them, with live electronics by Torn and Smith expanding the aural envelope. The third track, the Torn composition "Spartan, Before It Hit," showcases an extended ensemble with two extra guitars, keyboards and a string quartet; it's an otherworldly creation, ranging from hovering atmospherics to dark-hued lyricism to storming, sky-rending grandeur.

The words of LondonJazz, reviewing Sun of Goldfinger live, also suit the band's debut on record: "This is dangerous music - at times angry, at others blissed-out and illuminating - with its thunderous rumblings... delivering not so much a wash of sound, more a tidal wave."-ECM

"Sun of Goldfinger, the Son of Prezens? More than a decade ago, guitarist and texturalist extraordinaire David Torn had assembled a quartet with avant-garde saxophone star Tim Berne, keyboardist Craig Taborn and drummer Tom Rainey for an unforgettable album that deftly combined improvisation with technological after-the-fact alterations. Prezens was a step in the development of Torn's artistic vision, but a large step because he found such a communion with these open-minded musicians.

The heart of that communion is the special connection between Torn and Berne, with Torn architecting soundscapes that provide the perfect fodder for Berne's uniquely extended technique, and that's provided the basis for their later project together, Sun of Goldfinger. The only addition to the two this time around is a critical one: Berne's Snakeoil drummer Ches Smith.

David Torn hadn't performed with Smith for as long as Berne, but the three had been perfecting their chemistry since 2010 and after a 2017 European tour where the partnership coalesced into another level, Torn felt that the time was ripe to cull their improvs into a group of electronica-enhanced works (as he had done for Prezens) and release it as a studio album.

There are only three long tracks on Sun of Goldfinger each running about twenty-three minutes long, which better reflects the lengthy, explorative excursions into the sonic ether that are performed on stage. As with the prior Torn/Berne collaboration, half of the art is assembling and altering these spontaneous performances into extended compositions with manifold layers of complexity, an ability for which Torn really has no equal.

A persistent knocking on wood is the only thing that provides continuity for the first part of "Eye Meddle." As usual for David Torn, he creates a mesh of remote, industrial electronic and guitar sounds and Berne always seems to know just where to fit his alto sax into this otherworldly brew. When Berne's attitude gets more assertive, searching and ultimately, urgent, Torn finds himself adjusting to Berne. That's when - ten minutes in - the drone and the indiscriminate noises in the background turn upward and Smith is finally lured into conventional time-keeping (though Torn had altered his drums so that they sound alien). With Berne now settled into a simple and dire figure, Torn's metal side shows its teeth. It's easy to forget that during this time with all these ghoulish sounds swirling about that there's a dandy lil' groove at the center of it all...a groove that itself breaks apart and mutates on this continually-evolving song.

Torn loops in Berne's sax cries on "Soften The Blow" and then matches them on his guitar as Berne moves further along in his excursion, creating an illusion of three saxophone players. After the buildup and full release, all that's left is a pulse but soon Torn along with Smith and Berne gather momentum toward another murky cataclysm.

Early on "Spartan, Before It Hit," the stateliness of a string quartet is heard and no, this isn't sampling wizardry but the real thing: Martha Mooke, Amy Kimball, Rachel Golub and Leah Coloff are brought on board to supply the authentic chamber music element. David Torn wasn't done adding other participants outside the core trio; Mike Baggetta and Ryan Ferreira make this a three guitar lineup and Taborn rejoins Torn and Berne on this occasion. But despite the inclusion of seven additional musicians to the trio, there are moments of voids intentionally left behind, as the music swells and recedes along an evolutionary path.

As with all Torn-led projects, there is so much going on submerged below the surface because the textures he creates are so detailed, you could listen to this a hundred times and still not sufficiently dissect the music. That esoteric quality of pieces shaped from sounds conjured up in the moment by elite improvisation specialists makes the supremely creative Sun of Goldfinger unlike anything else out there ... apart from other David Torn records."-S. Victor Aaron, Something Else!

Also available on vinyl LP.
Get additional information at Something Else!
Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Trio Recordings
Stringed Instruments
Octet Recordings
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