BB&C – The Veil

January 01, 1970



trio of Tim Berne (alto saxophone), Jim Black (drums, laptop) and Nels Cline
(guitar, effects) might have been a relatively new group at the time of this
2009 performance, but these guys have rapport that spans decades and coasts.
Cline, now best known as the maverick guitarist in Wilco, played on Berne’s
first albums in the early 1980s. Black’s combination of splatter and propulsion
drove Berne’s amazing quartet Bloodcount a decade later. To say these three
know each other is something of understatement.


The Veil was recorded on a hot summer night at the Stone in New York. BB&C
improvised two pieces, which have been edited to sound like one continuous
performance, banded into nine tracks that break at radical dynamic shifts. It
could be the persona of his instrument, but Cline sets the direction for most
of the pieces. His bank of effects allows him to hammer out low-end death metal
riffage or noises that sound like his guitar is wedged under a lawn mower.
During “The Barbarella Syndrome” he literally sounds like he’s beating the
guitar – and it sounds amazing. He plays with such taste that he never comes
close to wearing out a good idea.


ranks as one of the most creative drummers in modern jazz/improvisation music.
He plays all over his kit throughout a performance, crashing and spilling or
digging into some post-Elvin Jones type of attack that keeps the music
exciting. Here, he also incorporates a laptop, which is probably responsible
for some of the noises that dart in and out, making them hard to distinguish
from Cline’s effects. These are prominent in the subdued (relatively speaking)
“Momento” where he and Cline tip their hat to Robert Fripp’s solo work.


whose original, complex compositions can induce whiplash to anyone trying to
bop along with them, seems relegated to the background early in the set. He blows
some riffs over his comrades and adds strong altissimo shrieks or long overtones
that bring sections to a close. Each of these examples fit well, but in
“Barbarella,” his playing starts to display more of the insight heard in his
own work. By the time the group gets to “Rescue Her,” more than three-quarters
into the disc, they’re creating a composition on the spot, Black playing a 4/4
vamp, Cline alternating rhythm and lead guitar and Berne adding a melody to it.


listeners wouldn’t consider this music rock, but it rocks too hard to be
labeled simply as “free improv” or “jazz” of any sort.


“The Barbarella Syndrome,” “Rescue Her.” MIKE SHANLEY

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