Self-Luminous is one of two trio sessions recorded by Mark O'Leary and Mat Maneri on January 4, 2002, and released simultaneously on Leo Records three and a half years later. The other set, Chamber Trio, also involved pianist Matthew Shipp and took a rather soft-edged free-bop direction. This set is more dynamic and keener on experimentation. Drummer Randy Peterson, one of Maneri's regular sidemen, takes the third chair this time. The music still relies heavily on the musical relationship between the electric guitar and the violin. When O'Leary and Maneri play quietly, their instruments have eerily similar tones, but whenever things heat up they diverge, reaching opposite sound palettes that make you wonder how they could be almost mistaken for one another a few minutes earlier. They also seem to be consciously varying their level of listening, sometimes proceeding with caution to keep a tight focus on interaction, other times letting loose in different directions, only careful to eventually find each other again. Peterson is the real vector in this interplay, keeping things velvety in "Self-Luminous" and "Camouflage" to let his colleagues unfold their immaterial melodicism, and then prying them apart in "Lilt" and "Purple People." It would be a slight exaggeration to present Self-Luminous and Chamber Trio as two sides of the same coin, but there is something like that at play. The other one has more thought to it; this one features more stamina, although the tender side of Chamber Trio remains present here. Self-Luminous is more vital, but also a more difficult listen.
AllMusic Review by François Couture