Alarms and Excursions

Composer(s): Bern Nix, John Klenner, Sam Lewis
Album Title: Alarms and Excursions 
Cat. No.: 80437
Genre: Jazz
Description: Bern Nix Trio

Bern Nix, guitar; Fred Hopkins, acoustic bass; Newman Baker, drums

“I paint a mustache on the Mona Lisa,” says Bern Nix about his combination of harmolodic and traditional methods.  Nix is a playful melodic guitarist with a sweet clean tone.  Known mostly for his work as a side man, especially with Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time Band, Nix has developed a reputation as an extremely fluent and versatile jazz player. This is his first recording leading his own group the Bern Nix Trio.

According to Ornette Coleman "Bern Nix has the clearest tone for playing harmolodic music that relates to the guitar as a concert instrument."  With Coleman's harmolodic theory, jazz took a new direction - in which harmony, rhythm, and melody assumed equal roles, as did soloists.  Ever since Coleman disbanded the original Prime Time Band in 1987, harmolodics has remained an essential element in Nix's growth and personal expression as a jazz guitarist, as evidenced here on Alarms and Excursions.

The first cut Z Jam Blues is a pun on the traditional "C Jam Blues".  Nix constructs four sections that can be played off the basic themes and repeated any number of times.  Acuity is a duo between Nix and Newman Baker.  In Ballad for L, Nix uses octaves and plays off melodic themes in the tradition of Wes Montgomery.  Just Friends was adapted from a Thirties torch song.  With its quick shifts in pace, phrasing, and direction from single note lines to rhythmical clusters to fast-paced arpeggios, Desert Storm is Nix's antiwar song.  Lets Don't is Nix's harmolodic safe-sex song.  Driving Sideways Backwards is derived from blues guitarist Freddie King's version of Driving Sideways.  Pat's Theme was dedicated to a friend who's been supportive of his artistic development over the years.  The closing cut, Boundaries has neither bar lines nor precise points of rest.  Nix has written the tune to some extent based on a diminished scale, which allows his trio to play around with notions about the boundaries in music. 
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