's Caos Totale
sextet exploring his rich, multi-layered compositions in depth and at length. Berne
's pieces, especially his longer, episodic ones, tend to take unexpected twists and turns; you'll find very little of the traditional "head-solos-head" song structure here. Though most of his themes have a blues base, they emerge and disappear in conformity with their own logic, not a pre-existing formula. For example, "Sam's Dilemma" begins with a wailing, pounding motif that's almost rockishly anthemic in nature. The band slugs it out with swagger and grit and the listener expects it to form the basis for some raucous, low-down solos. Instead, the music evanesces and one is left alone with bassist Mark Dresser
playing a lovely, hushed solo superficially at odds with what has preceded. This, in turn, leads into a relaxed bluesy theme that Berne
, on alto, rides out with grace and restraint. Some of the pieces have a similar feel to drummer Bobby Previte
's ensemble compositions from around the same time, recorded for Gramavision, but all share a richness combined with a slight acerbic tinge that keeps things from becoming overly smooth. Although all the performers are in fine form, special mention should be made of multiple brass instrumentalist Herb Robertson
, whose over-the-top plunger work is a special joy.