Recorded live on 22-25 September 1994 at Instants Chavire's, Montreuil, Paris, France.
Memory Select, the final release in the three-CD live series recorded by Tim Berne's Bloodcount at Instants Chavires in Paris during September of 1994, begins in low-key fashion, with Chris Speed playing mournfully on his solitary clarinet before he is joined by Marc Ducret's skittering runs and begins to transfer some of the guitarist's energy into his own playing. The full-ensemble scored passages that follow in the 18-minute "Jazzoff" are akin to similarly subdued, chamberesque portions of compositions on the first two discs, Lowlife and Poisoned Minds, while Berne's buzzing multiphonics during the improvised segments place the saxophonist's fascination with sometimes abrasive textures on full display. Speed's clarinet, Berne's baritone sax, and Michael Formanek's arco bass draw long lines through a sometimes dark and melancholy sonic landscape punctuated by Jim Black's inventive, though comparatively laid-back, percussion. As suggested by the title, this is Berne at his least jazzy - although there is plenty of room for skronky improvisation during the midsection of "Jazzoff." This is one of Berne's best pieces for sustaining a consistent mood, even if that mood might lead listeners expecting some upbeat music to reach for a bottle of Prozac. And like his most enduring extended-form music, it avoids the jarring cut-and-paste juxtapositions of lesser composers, while still taking listeners on a wide-ranging ride. "Jazzoff" is followed by the grand opus of the entire three-CD series, the 51-plus minute "Eye Contact." Here, Berne leads the band's slow buildup of energy with a stunning, soulful alto solo before bringing the dynamic back down to quiet, chamber music levels. A short burst of almost sprightly full-band harmony and counterpoint signals approaching showcases for Speed's wild and wailing clarinet and Formanek's soloing prowess; more tricky and complex charts then lead to a funked-up jam supporting a crazed, noisy guitar solo from Ducret. For sheer energy alone, this would be an apt conclusion to "Eye Contact," but there is much more to come. The track ends with Berne soloing over a dramatic buildup from the full band, unleashing torrents of notes and blistering multiphonics from his horn before joining a powerful unison melody line executed by Ducret's guitar and Speed's tenor, with Black and Formanek thundering in free jazz abandon below. It is such a grand gesture that it serves not only as a coda to "Eye Contact," but to the entire three-disc Instants Chavires series. As Berne and Speed let their last sustained note slide into silence, Memory Select takes its place as a fitting climax to the three CDs, standing strongly on its own but also feeling, appropriately, like the series' grand finale. Any listeners interested in Berne's growth as a player, composer, and bandleader should pick this up if they can find it; better still to find all three of the JMT Bloodcount CDs to place Memory Select in proper perspective. While the Bloodcount Instants Chavires discs are unfortunately out of print, Winter & Winter is planning to reissue all three, and Memory Select is tentatively scheduled to be available in November 2005. Meanwhile, a phenomenal big-band arrangement of "Eye Contact" by Berne and the Copenhagen Art Ensemble (also featuring Ducret and trumpeter Herb Robertson) can be heard on the two-CD set Open, Coma, released by Berne's Screwgun label in December 2001.
-Dave Lynch (All Music Guide)