Experiencing the music of trumpeter Manuel Mengis, a standard list of musicians and musical styles heard in his music comes to mind. This is a disservice, because his methodology is quite original.
Still the temptation to explain his third disc for hatOLOGY following The Pond (2008) and Into the Barn (2005) in terms of others sounds, persists. His band has had a small change in personnel, Reto Suhner steps into the alto saxophone and clarinet seat, but the core remains with Roland von Flue (tenor saxophone & bass clarinet), Flo Stoffner (electric guitar), Marcel Stalder (electric bass), and Lionel Friedli (drums).
His compositions and this arrangement for electric stringed instruments-meets-acoustic horns allows for the intersection of Miles Davis' Sketches Of Spain acoustic sound and his plugged-in years on the track "The Opposite Of Spring." As Lester Young would say, "he has big ears," exemplified in his ability to draw together seemingly disparate styles. Take the bustling sound of "How Mario Tut Tut Got Super Wow Wow," with its orchestrated three horn frontline sounding very much like the Vandermark 5 track before it weaves into space-rock, some echoey effects, and a determined conclusion.
Mengis, the liner notes explain, lives in the countryside of Switzerland. His detachment from the urban "scene" as it were, must contribute to his "big ears." Snippets of Raymond Scott's music are felt in the composition "We Come In Peace" as are Scott's love of the simple melody braided with complex arrangements.
Mengis' muted trumpet plays foil to the effects of guitarist Flo Stoffner, who draws reference to both Marc Ribot and Bill Frisell's playing. The strength of this recording is the power of Mengis' arrangements intersecting the freer improvisational parts. Whereas the jazz lines are structured on "End Of A Record Breaker," like Jim Black's Alasnoaxis band, the rock parts feel improvised.
Mengis' innovative music is quite a fresh approach to melding modern jazz, from American and Europe with rock's emotion.
Personnel: Manuel Mengis: trumpet; Reto Suhner: alto saxophone, alto clarinet; Roland von Flue: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Flo Stoffner: electric guitar; Marcel Stalder: electric bass; Lionel Friedli: drums.