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Berne, Tim / Gregg Belisle-Chi: Mars (Intakt)

Succinct interpretations of compositions by New York saxophonist and composer Tim Berne, performed by Berne himself in a duo with guitarist Gregg Belisle-Chi, whose collaborations with Berne and his recent album Koi: Performing the Music of Tim Berne show Belisle-Chi to be the most capably informed player to accompany Berne in these thoughtful renderings.

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product information:

Includes an 8-page booklet with a color photo, liner notes in English and discographical information.

UPC: 7640120193744

Label: Intakt
Catalog ID: ITK374.2
Squidco Product Code: 31399

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: Switzerland
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold 3 Panels w/ booklet
Recorded at Applehead Studio in Woodstock, New York, on May 15th, by Chris Bittner.


Tim Berne-alto saxophone

Gregg Belisle-Chi-guitar

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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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"Gregg Belisle-Chi is a guitarist and composer living in Brooklyn, New York.

Throughout his career, he has performed with Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, Cuong Vu, Steve Swallow, Reid Anderson, Ted Poor, Eyvind Kang, Ben Goldberg, Wayne Horvitz, Tom Varner, Bob Sheppard, Jay Clayton, and Jessica Dobson (Deep Sea Diver, Beck, The Shins).

He maintains an active career in music as a leader, sideman, and educator.

As leader:

Good Intentions (co-lead with Sam Decker, Dov Manski, Luke Bergman, and Dave Flaherty): playing original compositions inspired by pop/rock and singer/songwriter music.

Ensō (with Matt Aronoff and Jason Burger): a trio of guitar, electric bass, and drums playing songs inspired by twelve tone rows, long form compositions, and mixed meter rhythmic cycles.

Book of Hours (with Dov Manski, Matt Aronoff, and Michael W. Davis): a 50 minute through-composed piece with elements of improvisation, inspired by the history and texts of the Mass Ordinary, featuring a quartet for guitar, bass, keys, and drums.

I Sang to You and the Moon (with Chelsea Crabtree, Ray Larsen, and Carmen Rothwell): a song cycle based on the poetry of Carl Sandburg, featuring a chamber ensemble of guitar, vocals, trumpet, and bass. [...]"

-Gregg Belisle-Chi Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.
track listing:

1. Rose Bowl Charade 5:18

2. Purdy 4:18

3. Gastrophobia 3:13

4. Microtuna 3:50

5. Frosty 4:06

6. Big Belly 3:47

7. Rabbit Girl 4:28

8. Palm Sweat 2:58

9. Dark Shadows 4:38

10. Not What You Think They Are 3:15

11. Middle Seat Blues 4:42

12. Giant Squids 0:56
sample the album:

descriptions, reviews, &c.

"With his extensive artistic biography, Tim Berne is one of the most outstanding figures in American jazz. Rising star Gregg Belisle Chi, a connoisseur of Berne's music, has this year released the acclaimed album Koi, featuring interpretations of Tim Berne's compositions on solo acoustic guitar.

With his extensive skills and immense sonic potential, he is earning a central place in the landscape of contemporary acoustic guitar. With Mars, these two exceptional musicians present their first duo album. All songs are penned by Tim Berne and enchant the listener with an intense interplay that is playful, poetic and sonically stunning.

David Torn, who is responsible for the grandiose sound, writes in the liner notes: "Space Music? no, nope: Earth Music? well, yeah. Folk Music? well... i dunno, could be, but these songs on Mars are written by Tim and reimagined in-real-time by he and Gregg: them 2 being edified by, appreciative and respectful of those who've come before, and especially those ones who stayed lit and busted their own asses & spirits in order to continue initiating the kinds of flames that push us all to strive to express and to feel things of life and lives that may otherwise be functionally inexplicable, and may even be ineffable, somehow."-Intakt

"Stimulated by the recent emergence of a champion of his music, Tim Berne has made an album that pairs the longtime saxophonist, composer and bandleader with that champion, guitarist Gregg Belisle-Chi. Mars is the latest addition to Berne's ginormous catalog but a rare one where he's in a sax/guitar duet.

The very idea of Tim Berne pairing up one-on-one with a guitarist is actually an old one. Back when both have just begun to gain notice from the jazz community, he and Bill Frisell recorded Theoretically (1984), a true collaboration where each have roughly equally contributed songs. A spacious, textural-heavy record made at a point where both artists were still finding their way but were already making very interesting music that disregarded the trends of the time. Theoretically has held up fine and is well worth seeking out.

Mars, though, is exclusively about Berne's now-sharpened vision through the lens of the music's creator alongside a former Frisell protégé who's become Berne's most articulate interpreter in Gregg Belisle-Chi.

No one - or at least, no guitarist - has been able to unlock the secrets contained in Berne's esoteric compositions quite like Belisle-Chi, who proved that with his 2021 all-Berne covers album played exclusively on acoustic guitar. That album, Koi: Performing the Music of Tim Berne, was one of the boldest releases of that year, deconstructing the complexity of Berne tunes into its simpler, earthbound elements through the voice of a folk instrument.

Mars is likewise bold, bringing the interpreter in close proximity to the creator. Belisle-Chi once again sticks to acoustic guitar and so once again lays bare his interpretations as he constantly finds ways to coalesce his six strings with the ardent and unpredictable alto sax of Berne. Just listen to how Berne introduces the melody on a song like "Rose Bowl Charade" while Belisle-Chi puts it into sharper focus. Or on "Purdy," where the guitarist finds the right chords at the exact right moment to tie right into what Berne is playing.

Single Berne performances have often churned on for longer than the length of a sitcom episode, but I think that Mars comprising of a hefty dozen tracks generally running in the 3-5 minute range signals a desire to emphasize conciseness and hewing close to the essence of these songs. Yet in these shorter performances a lot is revealed. The serpentine but unhurried unison lines heard on songs like "Microtuna," "Rabbit Girl," "Palm Sweat" and the brief "Giant Squids" pulls back the certain on the composing mind of Berne.

For "Big Belly," Gregg Belisle-Chi gets to set the parameters of the song on his own before Berne enters, a subtlety that establishes it more as a folk song than a jazz one, underscoring the idea that the boundless Tim Berne probably doesn't think at all in terms of genres when crafting compositions. "Middle Seat Blues" is assuredly bluesy in feeling, and here (and everywhere, actually) Belisle-Chi shows restraint in playing only what's needed to get the message across, deftly using space and silence as partners alongside notes.

The great enjoyment of listening to Tim Berne songs comes largely from them being puzzles that challenges your ears to put together, making the tenth listen as fresh as the first one. Gregg Belisle-Chi has mastered Berne's idiosyncratic language and on Mars he helps to place some of those puzzle pieces together, in real time. And the more of a Tim Berne's song is revealed, the more brilliant it comes across."-S. Victor Aaron, Something Else! Review

Includes an 8-page booklet with a color photo, liner notes in English and discographical information.

Get additional information at Something Else!
Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
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