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David Torn – Sun of Goldfinger. (With Tim Berne, Ches Smith)

A veritable supergroup: David Torn (guitar), Tim Berne (saxophone), Ches Smith (Drums) “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.” (Geoff Winston, londonjazz)

The review continues: “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 Music Machine.

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!”


Saxophonist Tim Berne, drummer Ches Smith and guitarist David Torn push far beyond jazz’s known boundaries in Sun of Goldfinger. The mercurial trio explores the edges of the genre, infusing it with perspectives ranging from the minimalist to the cinematic to the metallic. The improvisation-based group effortlessly, seamlessly shifts from atmospheres into shattering mayhem to thrilling effect.

All three musicians are renowned bandleaders in their own right, with current solo recordings on the prestigious ECM label. Berne has forged a singular path across dozens of expansive, diverse albums featuring intricately-detailed, harmony-driven works. Torn’s influence as a guitarist, composer and music technologist is epic. With sounds ranging from the searing and soaring to liquid loops to full-on shredding, he’s reinvented conventional definitions of guitar. Smith has established himself as one of the world’s premier percussionists, combining acoustic invention with electronics to both propel and extend his myriad musical surroundings.

Together, these leaders and friends combine as a democratic unit, determined to take audiences on a singular journey through provocative sonic territory known and unknown. This is the future of jazz. This is Sun of Goldfinger.

Preview from Londonjazznews:

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