How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Metal Rat is a triumph from beginning to end. Along with pianist/leader Russ Lossing, violist Mat Maneri and bassist Mark Dresser have created a work of terrifying intensity and concentration of purpose that is engaging at many levels, simultaneously manifesting a steely ferocity that is nevertheless almost unbearably beautiful.
The ten tracks have but two actual compositions ("Turn" and "Is Thick With"), which are easy to distinguish as such. The other tracks are a mix of trio improvisations ("Coming to Meet," "Ch'ien," "Metal Rat" and "Fire Monkey") and different duo groupings. Lossing states in the notes that he wanted to create a sense of urgency, and the recording session was over in less than four hours.
Maneri and Dresser are both well-known in free jazz circles, and they respond to Lossing with a complete sense of control: everyone is in that "no mind" state of listening and playing without hesitation, existing totally in the moment. The success of Metal Rat lies in the sense of total immersion that the players exude. Each track explores a different emotional world and is generally short, as one might expect from free improvisations. The exceptions are the title track and "Ch'ien," which are arguably the standout performances.
At over fourteen minutes, "Ch'ien" (reversed in position with "Turn") is an excellent example of how adept improvisors who are truly free can produce an extended work that holds together, in both the free sections and the ones with a pulse. The feeling they produce is oceanic, carrying on momentum with waves that continuously move forward. The feeling of relentless logic in the music comes from the close playing of the trio.
Those who know Lossing's work will welcome this intense recording, while those who are new to either Lossing or free jazz can be assured that Metal Rat is a superb example of the genre.
Track Listing: Coming To Meet; Ch'ien; Turn; Damp(ness); Is Thick With; Dry(ist); Metal Rat; Hidden Lines; Fire Monkey; Their Blood is Black and Yellow.
Personnel: Russ Lossing: piano; Mat Maneri: viola; Mark Dresser: bass.