Joe Maneri / Mat Maneri / Barre Phillips

Angles of Repose

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One has to hand it to this trio. Joe Maneri (alto, tenor, and clarinet), his son Mat Maneri (viola), and Barre Phillips (double bass) understand something essential about improvisation that seems to have been lost by all but a handful or so of those currently practicing this art: they seek to convey the complexities of honest emotion first and foremost by any means necessary; secondly, they seek to relate the discoveries of sonic inquiry -- technique and other theoretical concerns come last. They could give a toss if what they are playing is "jazz" or not. What this Maneri/Phillips/Maneri trio is about, then, is not theoretical music, but discovering and conveying feelings in music. Angles of Repose is a suite of ten parts that runs a bit over 71 minutes, recorded without headphones in a small church in France -- next to Phillips' home. The elder Maneri certainly has theories about music, but it's in the playing and connection with other musicians that they are realized. His microtonal inquiries along with his notion of the octave -- which contains no less than 72 subdivisions -- would be useless academic twaddle if they didn't result in such an intimate and, in a sense, accessible communication with other players and of course the listener. The interplay between the viola and double bass -- bowed and plucked -- is where the recurrent ideas come home to be extrapolated upon, dissected, and reemphasized by Joe's horns and voice, which jumps in when the instruments won't get him where he needs to go. In this sense, this music sings. It's true the singing is balladic and dirgelike much of the time, but it is pastoral, too, and gentle and sweetly elegiac. It bears repeated listening and meets the listener readily, offering a standard-bearing effectiveness in how the poetry of collective improvisation should be realized and articulated.

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