REVIEW: Sun of Goldfinger (Tim Berne, David Torn, Ches Smith) at the Vortex

"Illuminating...thunderous" - Sun of Goldfinger at the Vortex
L-R: David Torn, Ches Smith, Tim Berne
Drawing by Geoff Winston © 2016. All Rights Reserved


Sun of Goldfinger (Tim Berne, David Torn, Ches Smith)
(Vortex, 22 January 2017, night 1 of a two night residency; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

This was one of those occasions when watching a performance a smile arrives, unannounced, from somewhere out there because the music doesn't just live up to its promise, you realise it has gone somewhere way beyond it. It was particularly gratifying, having previewed the Sun of Goldfinger residency at the Vortex, to find that the New York-based trio of David Torn, Tim Berne and Ches Smith, steeped in the ethics of sonic non-conformity and that city's rich jazz heritage, delivered a proposition that charted a path combining a crushing intensity with touches of neatly clipped, jazz-rooted fluency.

Amongst points of reference to help place the weave of their spell were the best of Hendrix's jams in spaces no larger than the Vortex. There were echoes of Buddy Miles' ultra-funk bursting through in Smith's hard-driven percussion laced with electronic embellishment (non-decorative); Torn going where Hendrix might have wished to find himself, taking up residence in a parallel universe of stormy squalls, shredded gusts and raw, yet lucid, tangential guitar work, in a vein similar to Wadada Leo Smith's setting out markers in post-Miles territory; and Berne, taking on the mantle of the straight-playing alto saxophonist, no frills, delivering well outside the comfort zone with phrasing that asked questions with every breath.

Zappa's frenzied deconstructions and Pink Floyd at their early psychedelic best were also brought to mind, as was Lou Reed's uncompromising Metal Machine Music.

But the reality was that Sun of Goldfinger were right there in the present, with their own distinctive voices articulating both hope and discomfort in troubled times. Theirs is dangerous music, at times angry music, at others blissed -out, illuminating music with its thunderous rumblings and Ornette-inspired figures - delivering not so much a wash of sound, more a tidal wave. What started in one of their pieces in the second set with an innocent jazz melody was swiftly subverted by dense, rushes of sound that bubbled and brewed and led to spells of tight duetting and stretches of close rhythmic interaction carried along with an irresistible momentum.

This is a trio which puts themselves on the line with every sound they make - and they still have one more night at the Vortex! (BOOKINGS)

Sun of Goldfinger
David Torn - guitar, electronics
Tim Berne - alto sax
Ches Smith - percussion, electronics


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