Tim Berne

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Tim Berne
Background information
Born (1954-10-16) October 16, 1954 (age 69)
Syracuse, New York, U.S.
GenresAvant-garde jazz
Years active1979–present
LabelsEmpire, Soul Note, Columbia, JMT, Screwgun, Thirsty Ear, ECM, Intakt

Tim Berne (born October 16, 1954)[1] is an American avant-garde jazz saxophonist and record label owner. His primary instruments are the alto and baritone saxophones.


Tim Berne

Berne was born in Syracuse, New York, United States.[1] He has said that 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 Motian, Schuller, Ray Anderson, Herb Robertson and others. He then got a contract with Columbia and recorded with Robertson, Hank Roberts, Bill Frisell and others.[1] During this time he also recorded a duo album with Frisell and two albums with John Zorn. After two albums with Columbia, 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 to form the quartet Bloodcount (which was occasionally a quintet with the addition of Ducret). PolyGram bought JMT and closed it. This motivated Berne to start Screwgun Records as the outlet for his albums.[2]

Screwgun's first release was a 3-disc set by Bloodcount called Unwound, the music of which exemplified Berne's characteristic style of "explod[ing] the walls of traditional compositional form: instead of adhering to anything remotely resembling theme and variations, he intersperses thematic material–sometimes repeated, elongated, or truncated–with the careening pleasures of free improvisation."[3] During the late 1990s he continued to perform with Bloodcount, formed Paraphrase, a trio with Drew Gress and Tom Rainey, and Big Satan, a trio with Ducret and Rainey.

In the early 2000s, Berne formed several groups, including the trio Hard Cell with Rainey and Craig Taborn, and the quartet Science Friction (Berne, Ducret, Rainey,and Taborn). He also collaborated with members of The Bad Plus for the project Buffalo Collision, with Nels Cline of Wilco for the critically acclaimed album The Veil in 2011,[4] and with David Torn on several projects and recordings.

Berne formed the band Snakeoil with Matt Mitchell, Oscar Noriega, and Ches Smith, which released a self-titled album in 2012, and six more recordings, with slight personnel changes, over the next decade. During this time, he has also recorded with members of The Bad Plus as Broken Shadows, and in duos with several musicians. In 2023 he released Oceans And with Hank Roberts and Aurora Nealand.

Recently albums by other musicians interpreting Berne's music have begun to appear. These include Førage by Matt Mitchell, Koi by Gregg Belisle-Chi, and Palm Sweat by Marc Ducret.


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


As leader/co-leader[edit]

With ARTE Quartet

With BB&C

With Gregg Belisle-Chi

  • 2022 Mars (Intakt)
  • 2022 Zone One (Screwgun)

With Big Satan

With Bloodcount

With Broken Shadows

  • 2019 Broken Shadows (Newvelle)
  • 2020 Broken Shadows Live (Screwgun)

With Buffalo Collision

  • 2008 Duck (Screwgun)

With Caos Totale

With Bruno Chevillon

  • 2011 Old and Unwise (Clean Feed)

With Marilyn Crispell

With Michael Formanek

  • 1993 Loose Cannon (Soul Note)
  • 1998 Ornery People (Little Brother)

With Bill Frisell

With Hardcell

With Miniature

With Matt Mitchell

  • 2018 Angel Dusk (Screwgun)
  • 2020 1 (Screwgun)
  • 2020 Spiders (Out of Your Head)
  • 2022 One More, Please (Intakt)

With Aurora Nealand and Hank Roberts

With Paraphrase

With Hank Roberts

  • 1998 Cause & Reflect (Level Green)

With Herb Robertson, Marc Ducret and the Copenhagen Art Ensemble

With Science Friction

With Snakeoil

With Nasheet Waits

  • 2020 The Coandă Effect (Relative Pitch)
  • 2022 Tangled (Screwgun)

As sideman[edit]

With Ray Anderson

With Nels Cline

With Marc Ducret

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

With Enten Eller

  • Melquiades (Splasc(H), 1999)
  • Auto da Fe (Splasc(H), 2001)

With Umberto Petrin

  • Ellessi (Splasc(H), 1999)

With Jazzophone Compagnie

  • Mosaiques (Yolk, 2000)

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)
  • Even Better (Intakt, 2019)
  • Pre-Apocalyptic (Out Of Your Head, 2020)

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 Mr. Rencore

  • Intollerant (Auand, 2011)

With Ivo Perelman

  • (D)ivo (2022)

With Hank Roberts

With Herb Robertson

With Samo Salamon & Tom Rainey

  • Duality (Samo, 2012)

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, Craig Taborn, and Tom Rainey

  • Prezens (ECM, 2005)
  • Slipped on a Bar (Screwgun, 2009)
  • xFORM (Screwgun, 2020)
  • DISCO TENT (Screwgun, 2024) Torn Rainey Berne Dunn

With David Torn and Ches Smith

  • Sun of Goldfinger (ECM, 2019)
  • Congratulations To You (Screwgun, 2020)
  • Ozmir (Screwgun, 2022)
  • Mystic (Screwgun, 2023) With Aurora Nealand
  • Candid (Intakt, 2024) as The Sunny Five (Torn/Berne/Smith/Hoff/Ducret)

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. ^ Tesser, Neil (March 6, 1997). "Tim Berne's Bloodcount". Chicago Reader. Archived from the original on October 16, 2021. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  4. ^ Fordham, John (28 July 2011). "Berne/Black/Cline/BB & C: The Veil". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 August 2018.

External links[edit]