Tim Berne

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Tim Berne
Tim Berne.jpg
Background information
Born (1954-10-16) October 16, 1954 (age 67)
Syracuse, New York, U.S.
GenresAvant-garde jazz
Years active1979–present
LabelsEmpire, Soul Note, Columbia, JMT, Screwgun, Thirsty Ear, ECM, Intakt
Associated actsMiniature, Caos Totale, Bloodcount, Big Satan, Hard Cell, Science Friction, Paraphrase, Buffalo Collision, BBC Trio, Snakeoil

Tim Berne (born October 16, 1954)[1] is an American avant-garde jazz saxophonist and record label owner.


Tim Berne

Berne was born in Syracuse, New York, United States.[1]

Berne says he had no interest in playing an instrument until he attended Lewis & Clark College in Oregon. Hearing the album Dogon A.D. (1972) by Julius Hemphill turned his attention toward jazz. He was a fan of rhythm and blues, and it seemed to him that Hemphill was playing jazz with the soulfulness of R&B. In 1974, he went to New York to find Hemphill, who gave him saxophone lessons and advice on how to manage his career.[1] Berne started the record label Empire in 1979.[2]

For Empire, he recorded four albums with avant-garde jazz musicians such as John Carter, Alex Cline, Nels Cline, Olu Dara, Vinny Golia, Paul Motian, and Ed Schuller.[1] His next two albums appeared on Soul Note in the early 1980s.[1] In these sessions he worked with trumpeter Herb Robertson. He then got a contract with Columbia and recorded with Robertson, Hank Roberts, and Bill Frisell.[1] After two albums, he signed with JMT, a label known for avant-garde jazz. In the 1990s, he recorded in the trio, Miniature, with Roberts and Joey Baron,[1] and in the band Caos Totale with Django Bates, Mark Dresser, Marc Ducret, Steve Swell, and Bobby Previte. He led a trio with Michael Formanek and Jim Black, then added Chris Speed for a quartet. PolyGram bought JMT and closed it. This motivated Berne to start Screwgun Records as the outlet for his albums.[2]

He is one-third of the group BBC (Berne/Black/Cline) with Jim Black and Nels Cline of Wilco. The group released a critically acclaimed album called The Veil in 2011.[3]


  • Miniature (Joey Baron, Hank Roberts)
  • Caos Totale (Django Bates, Mark Dresser, Marc Ducret, Bobby Previte, Herb Robertson, Steve Swell)
  • Bloodcount (Jim Black, Marc Ducret, Michael Formanek, Chris Speed)
  • Big Satan (Tom Rainey, Marc Ducret)
  • Hard Cell (Tom Rainey, Craig Taborn)
  • Science Friction (Tom Rainey, Craig Taborn, Marc Ducret)
  • Paraphrase (Tom Rainey, Drew Gress)
  • Buffalo Collision (Hank Roberts, Ethan Iverson, David King)
  • BBC Trio (Nels Cline, Jim Black)
  • Snakeoil (Oscar Noriega, Matt Mitchell, Ches Smith)
  • Broken Shadows (Dave King, Reid Anderson, Chris Speed)


As leader/co-leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Ray Anderson

With Nels Cline

With Marc Ducret

  • Tower Vol. 2 (Ayler, 2011)
  • Tower Bridge (Ayler, 2014)

With Simon Fell

  • Positions & Descriptions (Clean Feed, 2011)

With Figure 8

With Michael Formanek

  • Extended Animation (Enja, 1992)
  • Low Profile (Enja, 1994)
  • Nature of the Beast (Enja, 1997)
  • The Rub and Spare Change (ECM, 2010)
  • Small Places (ECM, 2012)
  • The Distance (ECM, 2016)

With Vinny Golia

  • Compositions for Large Ensemble (Nine Winds, 1984)
  • Facts of Their Own Lives (Nine Winds, 1986)

With Drew Gress

  • Spin & Drift (Premonition, 2001)
  • 7 Black Butterflies (Premonition, 2005)
  • The Irrational Numbers (Premonition, 2007)
  • The Sky Inside (Pirouet, 2013)

With Mark Helias

  • Split Image (Enja, 1985)
  • The Current Set (Enja, 1986)

With Julius Hemphill

With Ingrid Laubrock

With Hank Roberts

With Herb Robertson

With George Schuller

  • Hellbent (Playscape, 2002)

With Ches Smith

  • Hammered (Clean Feed, 2013)
  • International Hoohah (For Tune, 2014)

With Spring Heel Jack

  • Masses (Thirsty Ear, 2001)

With David Torn

With Stefan Winter

  • The Little Trumpet (JMT, 1986)

With Yōsuke Yamashita

  • Ways of Time (Verve, 1995)

With John Zorn


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who’s Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 45. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ a b Lynch, Dave. "Tim Berne". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  3. ^ Fordham, John (28 July 2011). "Berne/Black/Cline/BB & C: The Veil". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  4. ^ Considine, J. D. (February 2021). "Tim Berne/Matt Mitchell Duo: Spiders". DownBeat. Vol. 88 no. 2. p. 38.

External links[edit]