Joe Maneri

Going to Church

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Following in the tradition of In Full Cry, this version of Joe and Mat Maneri's ensemble that also includes bassist Barre Phillips, Matthew Shipp on piano, drummer Randy Peterson, and Roy Campbell on trumpet is perhaps the most potent yet. A fully involved series of improvisations, Going to Church is a near-suite in three parts. Joe Maneri's conceptual microtonalism is at the root of all of these pieces, where notions of front lines and rhythm sections blur into one another as time itself is stretched beyond recognition. The addition of a second horn player and Shipp on piano is welcome in that with the increased chromatic range, the timbral extensions that are integral to the Maneris' music become almost infinite. Phillips is an intuitive bassist: he uses the harmonic reaches to engender the improvisations with a signature dynamic; he lays back and moves forcefully inside to shore up anything that may get lost. Shipp plays less percussively here, since the instrumentation allows for his gorgeous chord voicings to be heard as a part of the overall work as opposed to their driving force. The most surprising thing here is the role of textural analyst that Mat Maneri plays. He's shaping ambiences and colors, rounding and sharpening edges rather than forming them with his father, Shipp, or Campbell. But it works, as Joe uses his clarinets or saxophones in a manner that can only be described as chanting through the middle of these three pieces. As he winds ribbon-like around the foundations of space, color, texture, and lyrical invention, the title of the album becomes clear. This is music as mystery, divinely inspired and secularly executed. It invokes the sacred in that it doesn't deem to name it or conjure it, but makes it manifest with musical presence. Everything is based on the principle of equanimity here, which creates tension and offers such a myriad of harmonically inventive possibilities as to keep the listener fully engaged for the duration. As evidenced on Going to Church, this version of the Maneri Ensemble is the most exciting yet.

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