After compelling contributions to ECM discs by David Torn and Michael Formanek, here is Tim Berne’s first leader date for the label. “Snakeoil” introduces a fascinating ensemble, a “chamber-like group” in Berne’s words, albeit one that packs some power. Tim’s tough alto is heard with Oscar Noriega’s earthy clarinets, Matt Mitchell’s cryptic piano, and Ches Smith’s tone-conscious drums, tympani, gongs and congas. Berne: “I'd decided on this very transparent instrumentation to try and avoid obvious stylistic references and to focus the listener on the musical ideas being presented.” Two years of wood-shedding preceded the recording of “Snakeoil” at New York’s Avatar Studios early in 2011, and the band was ready to roar. The disc is issued on the eve of a tour that takes in dates on both sides of the Atlantic.