Joe Maneri/Barre Phillips/Mat Maneri: Angles of Repose (2004)
Even the most organic music, in the hands of certain players, can take on a completely other-worldly tinge, somehow managing to feel both rooted in reality yet evocative of alien vistas. Reedman Joe Maneri has been exercising that neck of the woods over a fifty-year career that has seen him emerge as one of the progenitors of modern creative music. Where creative music differs from free jazz is that while improvisation is equally paramount, there is nothing to tie it, in any way shape or form, to the jazz tradition. There is rarely a traditional instrumental line-up; and it most certainly does not swing. Still, for the audacious listener, there is much to appreciate in a group of improvisers who daringly mix a more extemporaneous nature with a style that emerges more directly from contemporary classical work. Angles of Repose represents one such ensemble. If you can put aside preconceptions, and open up to music as something more textural, more timbral, something to be felt as much as heard, then you're most of the way there.
Angles of Repose reconvenes Joe Maneri with son Mat on viola and bassist Barre Phillips, the same trio responsible for '99's Tales of Rohnlief . While continuing on with the same explorations into the microtonal, with ten unnamed pieces that expand the possibilities of group interplay and communication, this is a somewhat more subdued affair, but while the extremes are more contained, it is no less adventurous.
Improvisations range from miniatures like "Number Seven," a clarinet-bass duet, and "Number Eight," a succinct trio piece, to the more extended "Number Four" and "Number Nine." Individual track descriptions are pointless; this is a work that is meant to be absorbed in toto. Be warned: this is a dark and brooding work, with little levity. While there is, at times, a certain playfulness, especially on "Number Nine," where all three players deftly explore the ranges of their instruments, there is nothing that could be considered remotely joyful about the experience.
One is sometimes surprised by the broad palette of sound coming from so limited a group of instruments. While the prospect of seventy-plus minutes of completely free, atonal and microtonal explorations can be daunting, there is a remarkable variety to be found; the exceptional dynamics and ambiences, which range from dense to spacious, make Angles of Repose a captivating listen for those who like their music to be free of boundaries and prepossession.
Track Listing: Number One; Number Two; Number Three; Number Four; Number Five; Number Six; Number Seven; Number Eight; Number Nine; Number Ten
Personnel: Joe Maneri (alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet), Barre Phillips (double-bass), Mat Maneri (viola)