Avant-jazz saxophonist, highly underappreciated. Currently living in New York City, he runs his own record label (Screwgun) out of his home in Brooklyn.

Berne is an excellent composer and is highly praised for his work with the quartet Bloodcount. His mentor in jazz was Julius Hemphill, the late co-founder of the World Saxophone Quartet. Berne actually went to NYC to find Hemphill, having been blown away by the man's Dogon A.D. album. For years, Berne has been trying to rerelease that album, but the record label owning the rights won't let it go.

Screwgun Records was founded as a reaction to the record industry. Tim had just had a bad experience with Polygram. He'd recorded a few albums with JMT, a European label specializing in adventurous jazz, but JMT got sold to Polygram. After about a year, Polygram shut down the JMT label and dumped all the JMT music in the vault. They have no plans to rerelease any of it, and they won't give Tim the rights to his own albums. Understandably pissed off, Tim started releasing CDs on his own label in 1996, selling them mostly at shows and through mail-order. You'll find them at better record stores, in brown-cardboard packaging with wacky cover art by Steve Byram.

(... more noding to come later. y'all come back!)


Personal notes. I have seen five Tim Berne shows, each in a different city: New York, San Francisco, Rome, Paris, Colorado Springs. The two European shows coincided with a two-week vacation. I didn't plan the trip around Tim's European tour, but we happened to cross his path twice through sheer dumb luck. My wife was flabbergasted.

I've spoken to Tim on several occasions. He's a little stoic and soft-spoken, comes across a little cold at first but then you realize he's just not much of a talker (ironic, considering the rampant wordplay in his song titles). He's really quite friendly and likes to keep in touch with fans. He actually recognizes me, even though I’ve only spoken with him those five times over the course of about five years.

So Tim's not rich and famous and doesn't hang with Wynton. Big deal. He creates excellent music and has managed to make a living while giving the finger to the record label establishment. I like that.


UPDATE: (8/27/01) All of JMT's old records are being rereleased on the Winter & Winter label, which is run by JMT's founder, Stefan Winter. The rereleases are spread out during the next several years. Stefan, like Tim, got screwed in the Polygram deal, so it's great to see him get the rights to his old records, and equally great to know Tim's JMT albums will again see light of day.

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