Tim Berne Trio


Gregg Belisle-Chi, Tom Rainey, and Tim Berne photo by Sarah Berne

Wednesday, March 13, 7:30pm
The Royal Room
5000 Rainier Ave S


Since his first solo album in 1979, the relentlessly exploratory composer and saxophonist Tim Berne has charted an utterly singular path. Starting from an early foundation of inspiration and tutelage from the incomparable Julius Hemphill, Berne has made over 50 recordings for labels including Soul Note, ECM, Intakt, and for almost 30 years, his own imprint Screwgun Records.

Any chance to see the New York-based Berne live is a must-see event, but his upcoming trio show at The Royal Room is particularly notable for Seattle jazz fans as a homecoming of sorts for returning hometown hero, guitarist Gregg Belisle-Chi. Belisle-Chi left Seattle for New York about eight years ago and now counts notables such as Bill Frisell, Nels Cline, and Andy Summers as fans, so it’s safe to say the creative music world has taken notice. Berne has been a beacon of inspiration for Belisle-Chi since his teenage years, so returning as part of Berne’s group is a moment of triumph. The trio will be rounded out by longtime Berne collaborator, drummer Tom Rainey, a peerless percussive shapeshifter and telepathic improvisor. 

A guitarist and composer of disciplined focus and sprawling aesthetic interests, Belisle-Chi connected with Berne in a uniquely 21st century way: online, during the pandemic. “I was just killing time during lockdown, trying to learn his music,” recounts Belisle-Chi. “I’d always been a big admirer of his music, and I was trying to figure out how he put it together.” 

“We got together and started playing duo a lot,” Berne adds. “Gregg was also bold enough to take on creating a solo guitar interpretation of my music, which is beautiful.” [Koi: Performing the music of Tim Berne]. “Gregg is a classic case of somebody who’s talented, but more importantly, knows that you’re going to get out of it what you put in,” says Berne, “and he puts a lot into the music.” 

After the solo record, Belisle-Chi and Berne recorded two duo records, and the collaboration also led to tours in Europe, in an ensemble also featuring cello visionary Hank Roberts and drummer Jim Black.

Berne holds down a weekly residency at Lowlands in Brooklyn, and Belisle-Chi estimates he did over 60 gigs with him in 2023. Historically, jazz has been a form that’s thrived on generational exchange and support, and Belisle-Chi’s experience is a modern example of this process at work. “These days, it’s unheard of in New York to have a consistent regular gig like that,” says Belisle-Chi. It’s been a real-world education on the bandstand, enabling him to play with a who’s who of modern jazz: Ralph Alessi, Ches Smith, Chris Potter and Michael Formanek, to name just a few.

Belisle-Chi’s role in Berne’s band is much more than a guitarist-for-hire. Despite half a lifetime of age difference and a smaller range of experience, he’s as much a close collaborator and peer as a sideman. Berne calls Belisle-Chi “fearless,” adding, “I need to have collaborators who are selfless and want to really develop something; Gregg definitely influenced me as much as I may have influenced him.” 

At The Royal Room show, the audience can expect a uniquely adventurous and uncompromising listening experience. Don’t miss it. Tickets at theroyalroomseattle.com.



Posted on

February 29, 2024