New York composer/saxophonist Tim Berne has been dramatically expanding Snakeoil’s original acoustic chamber-jazz sound world lately – and on this set, all the way to thundering timpani climaxes, avant-rock guitar howls and squelching electronics, though the Berne trademark of implacably interweaving horn lines tugged by sly rhythm-bends constantly resurfaces. […] This fourth Snakeoil album for ECM is one of the most viscerally direct and exciting chapters in a consistently creative story.
John Fordham, Guardian
Vielfache musikalische Aktionszentren ergeben sich wie in dem über 20-minütigen ‘Sideshow’ aus diversen melodischen Patterns und den Improvisationen der Solisten. Die Unvorhersehbarkeit des Geschehens sorgt für permanente Spannung.
Gerd Filtgen, Jazzthing
The saxophonist and composer has been breaking new ground since the 1980s, but now with the attention of that devoted audience and an ongoing relationship with the ECM label, Berne is able to keep his superb Snakeoil band together and delve ever deeper into his concept of ‘transparent density’, of what happens in the space where composition and improvisation meet. Beautiful is probably the wrong word for music that is so challenging to the ear, but there is something fresh – even alarming – here that points the way to a brave new sound world.
Cormac Larkin, Irish Times
Auf Tim Berne ist Verlass, denn auch der Umstand, dass er mit seiner höchst erfolgreichen Band Snakeoil das bereits vierte Album seit 2012 präsentiert, bedeutet in musikalischer Hinsicht keineswegs ein zufriedenes Zurücklehnen. Vielmehr lotet er gemeinsam mit (Bass-)Klarinettist Oscar Noriega, Pianist und Elektroniker Matt Mitchell und Drummer/Perkussionist/Vibraphonist Ches Smith wieder lustvoll die Grenzen des Gerade-noch-Machbaren aus und schöpft aus dem ungemein reichhaltigen, in Jahrzehnten gewonnenen Erfahrungsschatz als kompromissloser Avantgardist, freilich ohne sich in der Klischeehaftigkeit des Unkonventionellen zu verlieren [...] Das lässt keinen kalt, hier spalten sich die Geister - und das war nie wertvoller als heute!
Peter Füßl, Kultur
Allein der Halbstünder ‚Sideshow‘ macht seinem Titel alle Ehre und stellt die beträchtlichen Möglichkeiten des ausgefuchsten Quintetts zur Schau. Ungewöhnlich tönende Gitarren, Elektronik und Pauken dürfen da nicht fehlen. Herrlich verknotete Themen zischen rein und raus, und der Hörer kann frei wählen, wo er seinen Fokus verlieren möchte.
David Mochida Krispel, Falter
As the interconnectedness and the independence alike of these musicians develop, one comes to see the shadow and light in Snakeoil not as opposites but as twins. […] Poetry shares breath with prose at every turn. Whether in Oriega’s sensitivity or Berne’s physicality, Smith’s blast of timpani or Ferreira’s finesse, the band demonstrates the ability of jazz to open doors you never knew you had. The truth of mastery lives on.
Tyran Grillo, New York City Jazz Record
Selten hatte Berne eine Band, bei der das Solistische so wenig im Vordergrund stand. Von David Torns kurzem Intro an geht es in jedem Augenblick um die Band als Ganzes. Es war ein langer Weg, den Tim Berne bis zu diesem Punkt zurückgelegt hat, aber ‚Incidentals‘ ist ein vorläufiger Höhepunkt.
Wolf Kampmann, Jazzthetik
Alto saxist/composer Tim Berne has always been known for his energy music – few musicians outside of John Zorn are as comfortable with powerhouse improvisation as Berne. But he’s as much author as performer, and ‘Incidentals’, his fourth LP with current ensemble Snakeoil, highlights his writing as much as his musicians’ playing. […] the centerpiece is ‘Sideshow,’ nearly a half hour of Berne, Noriega, Mitchell and Ferreira exploring every nook and cranny of the piece, going from out to in to somewhere in between, translating the love/hate relationship between chaos and order into a musical journey. […] After as many decades as he’s been active, you’d think Berne might be slowing down in his middle years. But ‘Incidentals’ is proof that he’s just as wired and iconoclastic as ever.
Michael Toland, Blurt
Though the Snakeoil band lives and thrives dangerously, Incidentals never goes off the rails; there’s a constant sense of surprise but coupled with a sense of purpose. It all begins with the palpable trust that Tim Berne invests into his band members.
S. Victor Aaron, Something Else Reviews
The addition of guitar has significantly broadened the dynamic range of the group; Ferreira comes in with striking bursts of electric guitar, and this seems to have liberated Smith to create exciting explosions of sound on drums, tympani and vibes. The contrast between the lines created by the two horns and what the guitar, percussion and piano are doing behind and over them is one of the delights of this album. It is a contrast that means that there is always a strong rhythmic impulse but one that does not take anything away from the edginess of the music. […] Of the five Snakeoil albums, four on ECM and one on Tim’s own Screwgun label, this is the one that is probably the most varied and happening. But they are all amazing.
Tony Dudley-Evans, London Jazz News
His new record, ‘Incidentals’, further stretches Berne’s unhindered-by-tradition ways of thinking about jazz, and thank God for that. As a composer with a fondness for mosaical, mazelike structures that sweetly counterpoint his Snakeoil band’s often improvised textures and rhythms, he brings remarkable inventiveness to his new pieces. Berne’s music promises and delivers a supremely satisfying brain scrub while also evoking thrillingly strange emotions. At his best, he makes melodies that disembark into wider space, leaving jet trails of ‘tune’ that are assembled in the listener’s mind.
John Payne, L.A. Weekly
Mitchell maintains an intractable sense of movement through every twist and turn, allowing drummer Ches Smith to contribute coloristic bowing or darkly melodic vibraphone. This music is packed with ideas, but there’s little here as satisfying as how Berne and Noriega blow their twinned lines, slaloming through color and groove with razor precision. Their moments of improvisation are inspired too, creating giddy, breathlessly spontaneous constellations of sounds.
Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader
All together, these players construct and explore a huge sonic palette. The tracks tend to accrue power, steamrolling forward with occasional surprising interludes of decompression. Such music is not ‘free’ as in ‘random’, but created by musicians freely taking advantage of whatever they care to. The results are mystifying and beautiful – at times forceful, at others sorrowful and resigned. […] The title must be ironic. There is nothing merely incidental about it.
Howard Mandel, Downbeat
The composer continues to juggle fresh, often poignant lyricism with melodies built on rhythm and wide-open playing. Long ago surpassing his mentor Julius Hemphill, Berne has been furthering the late saxophonist's technique and taking his own compositional skills to progressively higher levels. In Snakeoil he has found a perfect formation, where traditional solos are minimized and group dynamics dictate the sound. Just as could be said with each preceding Snakeoil release, ‘Incidentals’ is the group's best release to date.
Karl Ackermann, All About Jazz
Since joining the ECM roster, he has released four excellent recordings with Snakeoil—the latest, ‘Incidentals,’ ranking as one of the finest jazz albums in an exceptional year. Snakeoil features a core of Mr. Berne, pianist Matt Mitchell, clarinetist Oscar Noriega and drummer Ches Smith; on occasion the group has expanded to include guitarist Ryan Ferreira. Mr. Ferreira doesn’t take unaccompanied solos on the recording; instead he adds texture, as does guitarist David Torn, who also produced ‘Incidentals.’ Mr. Berne’s compositions challenge the theme-solo-theme structure of most jazz. Rather than return to a theme, each solo tends to take the music to a new juncture; the shifting rhythms in the play of Mr. Mitchell or Mr. Smith function as a guide to the direction of each piece. Mr. Berne is interested in collective improvisation, and the members of Snakeoil have developed a phenomenal rapport that enables each member to be heard clearly even during those moments.
Martin Johnson, Wall Street Journal
Among its many rewards ‘Incidentals’ documents the growth of the exciting partnership between Berne and Mitchell. The pianist recently recorded a critically acclaimed solo album of Berne compositions, ‘Førage’. Here he relates to the leader through the heady way he embroiders open spaces, enhances the album’s pervasive classical imprint, intensifies the architecture of certain tunes and subtly colours the aural landscape with electronic touches.
Lloyd Sachs, Jazz Times
In diesen mehr komponierten als ‘freien’ Vexierspielen für sein Altsaxofon, Oscar Noriegas Klarinetten, Ryan Ferreiras Gitarre, Matt Mitchells Klavier und Ches Smiths Schlagwerk werden minimalistische Rhythmusstrukturen repetitiv mit melodischen und harmonischen Motiven aufgefüllt, das Ganze in Schichten übereinander gelegt und meist dynamisch gesteigert. Ein stets ein Geheimnis bewahrendes Musizieren, das zuerst den Kopf, bald aber auch die Gefühle anspricht.
Oliver Hochkeppel, Süddeutsche Zeitung Extra