What would you make of a 1998 meeting between longtime vanguard jazz buddies like saxophonist Time Berne and cellist Hank Roberts
? It'd be a skronk-fest, right? Wrong. This gorgeous duet album between Berne
explores improvisation to be sure, but more than that it picks up where their phenomenal collaboration left off in the early '90s. Cause & Effect explores the limits of compositional structure, as well as exploring their expansion via dynamics, phrasing, tonal equations, harmonic extrapolations, modular architectures, and intervallic episodes. Is it jazz? Yes, and much more; this is a dialogue, so symbiotic as to be almost uncomfortable. This pair can delve into the instinctual vibe so deeply that they surprise one another by predicting what the other will play. These written-out sketches offer the framework for one tonal or modal idea that can be expressed in numerous ways before being drafted out and stretched to the contrapuntal and harmonic limits before they have to give way to something else, which is as anguishing as it is breathtaking. The notion is that neither man wants to exhausts the inherent improvising capabilities inside a particular architecture. The absolutely wrenching "More Than One Dance" is one example, and "In Other Worlds" is another. That's not to say there isn't humor here. Berne
's too loopy to leave it totally out: "Showdown!," with its striking western motif, and "Invasion of the Freudian Shrimp," with its nod to Wagner at the circus, is another. In all, this is a pure delight, and leaves listeners wanting to hear as much of this fruitful collaboration in the future as we have in the past.