Dickey, Maneri, Shipp - Vessel in Orbit

Label/Year: AUM Fidelity, 2017

Lineup – Whit Dickey: drums; Mat Maneri: viola; Matthew Shipp: piano. 

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Vessel in Orbit is a musical narrative of a fictional spatial voyage piloted by a trio of talented musicians and longtime associates. I'm talking about the quick-tempered drummer Whit Dickey, conceptualist violist Mat Maneri, and groundbreaking pianist Matthew Shipp.

Together, and furnished with the appropriate palettes, they illustrate this cosmic adventure that starts with the characterization of their “Spaceship 9”. There’s an imminent sense of danger brought by an insistent chord, an unambiguous rhythmic provocation by Shipp, who inspires Maneri for a few virtuosic and full-blooded runs that initially sound like a horn. The percussive currents emitted by Dickey sometimes gain the form of an imperial march. Despite some textural iteration and occasional mitigation in the intensity, the tune vibrates with movement.

The crew stops the engines for a “Space Walk”, which is done at an irregular pace as a result of freedom. They describe the dark and bright sides of the mysterious planet they’re stationed.
 
Forcing them into a huge vortex of tension, “Dark Matter” brings a jittery effervescence that will lead them to “Galaxy 9”, a quiescent cogitation, later turned into vehement imploration conducted by Maneri’s dramatic phrasing.

While passing a risky zone of “Turbulence”, they experience oscillating moves regulated by Dickey’s technique and loaded with contrapuntal dissertations from his peers, whose paths occasionally cross.

The impact was so strong that a fourth member of the crew didn’t resist and succumbed. That's the reason why lugubrious tones embrace “To a Lost Comrade”, conveying despair and consternation. Here, it's Dickey who tries to pull his mates out of the lethargy.

Space Strut” shows us Shipp bolstering and propelling the spaceship with left and right-hand attacks, forming beautiful atmospheric textures of wide tonal range.
Already in another dimension, “Hyperspatial” comprehends contemplative reflections and euphoric exaltations punctuated by stratospheric noisy blasts.

If you want to step out of this world for a while, grab this record, which was passionately devised by an experienced trio of galaxy explorers, and let the portions of madness and lucidity invade your own space.

         Grade  A-

         Grade A-

Favorite Tracks: 
01 – Spaceship 9 ► 04 – Galaxy 9 ► 07 – Space Strut


Mat Maneri, Evan Parker, Lucian Ban - Sounding Tears

Label/Year: Clean Feed, 2017

Lineup: Mat Maneri: viola; Evan Parker: saxophones; Lucian Ban: piano.

Sounding Tears is a nebulous musical session devised by the improvisational masters Mat Maneri, Evan Parker and Lucian Ban, American violist, British saxophonist, and American pianist of Romanian descent, respectively.

While Maneri teamed up recently with saxophonist Tony Malaby and cellist Daniel Levine on New Artifacts (Clean Feed, 2017), another abstract trio work, the prolific Parker followed a similar path on the astonishingly atmospheric As The Wind (Psi, 2016), recorded with percussionist Mark Nauseff and lithophonist Toma Gouband. As for Lucian Ban, he, too, released an album called Songs From Afar (Sunnyside, 2017) with his Elevation quartet, which comprises saxophonist Abraham Burton, bassist John Hebért, and drummer Eric McPherson. Maneri also played as a guest on half of the tracks.

As expected, the music of this trio arrives on the spur of the moment, acquiring random shapes and apparently flowing without a fixed structure.

On “Blue Light”, we have Parker’s uninterrupted enunciations secured by muted viola sounds and low-pitched piano notes, both working as a percussive obbligato. A lethargic disposition embraces us in the beginning of “Da da da”, whose uncanny vibes shift into an odd dance of violin and sax while the piano remains actively involved in the discussion.

Neglecting tempo and forsaking harmony, “The Rule of Twelves” finds Maneri and Parker playing an avant-chamber duet immersed in ambiguity. Also rendered in duet, but this time featuring Ban and Parker, “This!” takes a conversational path that, despite experimental, feels more graspable than the previous compositions.
Afterward, it's Ban alone, who shines with a solo piece, “Polaris”, being also preponderant on the enigmatic “Blessed”, in which his penetrating low notes superimpose to the sparse high-pitched lines. The setting he creates is perfect for Maneri’s microtonal approach and Parker’s uncompromised strays.

The record’s two closing tracks are lenient yet contrasting in nature. If “Paralex” evolves into a compulsive manifesto of disordered small flurries and spasms, “Hymn” is the closest the band can get from a song format and the most touching and ear-pleasing tune on the record. 

Sounding Tears is a one-of-a-kind experience. It can be a journey to the ends of a remote universe or a philosophical exploration about the measureless weight of some weird microorganism. It will all depend on the receptivity of your own senses.

        Grade  B+

        Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
04 – Blessed ► 05 –This! ► 10 – Hymn


Tony Malaby/Mat Maneri/Daniel Levin - New Artifacts

Label/year: Clean Feed, 2017

Lineup - Tony Malaby: tenor and soprano saxophones; Mat Maneri: viola; Daniel Levin: cello.

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This symbiotic musical gathering between saxophonist Tony Malaby, violist Mat Maneri, and cellist Daniel Levin happened at the Three’s Brewer in Brooklyn in August 2015. This collaboration is not so surprising to me, taking into account that the members of this trio are prone to new experiments and alternative sounds.

Comprising four tunes, whose durations range from seven to thirteen minutes, New Artifacts opens with the title track, a fearless exploration of tones and textures in an innuendo of avant-jazz meets modern classical. Whether jarring or idyllic, the soundscapes are vast and sumptuous, yet the communication remains focused and alert. Despite occasional escapades, Maneri and Levin are in consonance for the most part of the time, leaving the unrestricted Malaby discoursing via tenor phrases mounted with a wide variety of timbres.

The saxophonist makes use of the soprano for “Creation Story” in which he embarks on a dissonant dialogue with Maneri. They speak frankly and only intermittently reach an agreement. At some point, Levin increases the rhythm by tapping the cello and plucking the strings to make it sound like a bass. The sounds of the instruments blend so thoroughly that sometimes it’s difficult to tell who’s playing what. The tune ends with Malaby’s high-pitched whistles over percussive sounds.

Open and atmospheric, “Freedom From the Known” starts by testing the waters through minimalistic fluctuations in order to gradually compose a wide and complex scene. Here, Maneri influences the mood by contrasting sad melodies with rugged tones.
In opposition to the previous compositions, “Joe” hauls us into a spooky musical setting, forcing us to traverse multiple obscure dimensions.

Highly conceptual, New Artifacts is everything but an easy listening and even staunch avant-gardists will have a challenge here. If you’re sufficiently courageous as a listener, go ahead and try to capture the richness of these triangular propagations.

         Grade  B+

         Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
03 – Freedom From the Known ► 04 – Joe