Tim Berne’s independent streak runs deep. It’s evident in the fiercely original music the alto saxophonist has made throughout his four-decade career, marked by audacious imaginative leaps, daring combinations of voices and palettes, and epic, risk-taking compositions.
But it’s also evident in the way that he’s released that music. Berne founded his label Screwgun Records in 1996, predating and outliving many independent imprints that have sprung up since. His releases are distinctive not only for the singular music they contain, but also for their striking packaging, which originally featured brown cardboard sleeves and always boast stunningly chaotic Steve Byram artwork and Berne’s sardonically witty titles. When the pandemic struck, he launched the digital-only sublabel 9donkey, issuing a steady stream of new solo and collaborative projects as well as archival live recordings.