Steven Lantner

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A nice trio of like-minded players with Boston roots. Saxophonist Joe Maneri has a pliant, expressive sound on both his horns and a deep reserve of ideas. His playing is as nontonal as can be; he's mastered the saxophone's chromatic capabilities, and his inclination toward microtonality widens the scope of his harmonic palette still further. Guitarist Joe Morris plays faster than the speed of digitally encoded sound. He's a jaggedly linear player with a conscious bent toward abstraction. Steven Lantner is a fine musician on the level of the other two, and although he doesn't seem as determined to avoid tonal references (he chords, for one thing -- not that there's anything wrong with that), he nevertheless shares their sensibility. Lantner has a crisp, economic manner; he complements Maneri's drunken textures and Morris' rapid-fire melodies quite well. The whole trio plays on only half of the cuts; the rest feature Lantner playing solo, or in duo with either of the others. If there's any downside to the record, it's the aimless quality of some of the improvisations. It's easy to bash New York improvisers for playing too loud and too long, but ultra-high-intensity can in itself be an organizing element. The laconic manner of Maneri in particular exaggerates the sense of diffusion. It's also easy to be put off by Lantner's use of two pianos pitched a quarter tone apart on a couple of tracks. That said, there's enough good stuff on this to recommend it. Lantner also wrote the liner notes and as the least well-known of the three, one suspects that he initiated the project. Good for him. He's obviously a fine player who hasn't had the benefit of hype to put him over. This should do the trick -- from a critical point of view, at least.

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