Tim Berne s third ECM album, You ve Been Watching Me, sees the saxophonist-composer again leading his ultra-dynamic New York band Snakeoil, but with the quartet now a quintet with the arrival of guitarist Ryan Ferreira, whose sound adds textural allure. The group s 2013 release, Shadow Man, garnered Berne some of the highest praise of his career as a composer and bandleader, with JazzTimes marveling over how his work grows wilder and deeper. The four-star DownBeat review said: This music rocks and thinks, explores, deconstructs and, yes, it swings, in its own identifiably angular, Berne-ian way. Just as Berne has hit a new peak with his writing on You ve Been Watching Me, his band has reached a heightened state of collective interaction, realizing the compositions to a tee. Snakeoil with the leader on alto sax alongside pianist Matt Mitchell, clarinetist Oscar Noriega, percussionist Ches Smith and Ferreira on electric and acoustic guitars can still be bracingly kinetic. But there is new space in these compositions and more lyrical focus to the improvisations, leading to a dramatic, even cinematic experience in such tracks as Embraceable Me. Put simply, Berne s music has never been richer or more arresting.
A woman is slowly stalked to the brink of madness by a man watching her from the opposite tower block. Her attempts to get the police to take her seriously leave her with no option but to track him down herself.
Proving that 2002's appropriately titled Return of a Legend was no one-off fluke, semi-legendary Chicago guitarist Jody Williams cements his comeback with this invigorating follow-up. Producer Dick Shurman, who worked on the previous disc, frames Williams' expressive voice and clean, jazzy guitar in a subtle, frills-free environment that brings out his best. The album's 13 originals (and one Sam Cooke cover) showcase Williams' talents as a fluid, understated, yet soulful guitarist; witty songwriter; and, more importantly, a singer of surprising passion. Esteemed horn arranger Willie Henderson also returns from the last album to add his arrangements to four tracks, highlighted by the simmering, staccato touches on a remake of Williams' "Hideout," originally recorded in 1962. Part Freddie King's "Hideaway," part Earl King's "Come On," it's an accurate, updated example of Williams' six-string prowess. Although the majority of the tracks are straightforward Chicago shuffles and slow blues, the guitarist infuses his upbeat personality to the proceedings, which makes the album so consistently refreshing.