Vision Festival X - Day Two, June 15, 2005
Mat Maneri Quartet
After three standout sets in a row, it was going to be difficult for the band that followed. Next up was the Mat Maneri Quartet with Dave Burrell on piano, Drew Gress on bass, and Maneri's drummer of choice, Randy Petersen. What might seem an incongruous pairing of the microtonal violinist and the free jazz veteran Burrell made perfect sense this night. The two had combined at a gig a few months previously to good effect, finding a darkly lyrical shared chemistry.
Maneri's long swelling legato lines signalled a serene opening, framed by sparse piano chords and purposeful bass notes over spluttering drums. Reading from scores, the group launched into what became its trademark intense interplay. This first piece featured a fine solo from Petersen, centred on his snare but with increasing forays elsewhere, until he exploded in a frenzy of angles with elbows and knees pointed in unlikely directions as he smote his kit. At which point Maneri introduced long tones in contrast to the drums and the manic strumming of Gress and Burrell's crashing clusters, before they navigated to a delicate conclusion.
They played four numbers in what seemed a reserved and brooding set, given the exuberance of the preceding acts. The austere chamber feel was enhanced whenever Gress' arco bass blended with Maneri's abstract violin for a darker spirit to reassert itself. Petersen could be relied upon to pump it up, though, inspiring Maneri to cut loose with bursts of frantic sawing. Burrell's "Downfall provided the main contrast to the generally airy and cerebral proceedings, kicking off with a prancing cadence, picking up in a bass riff with drums playing time. Maneri added notes on top which gradually lengthened, evolving into legato lines, still emphasising the accents in the prancing rhythm. Burrell soloed, increasingly fragmenting and deconstructing the theme until the riff reasserted itself once more and led to a speedy written line over imploding drums. The piece ended with a cooking version of the opening riff. An intense and fluent set.
Wayne Horvitz's "Some Order Long Understood
The final act of the evening was Wayne Horvitz's "Some Order Long Understood, featuring a new lineup of cohorts past and present: alto saxophonist Briggan Krauss, bassist William Parker, and drummer Billy Martin. Horvitz made a name for himself in the '80s as part of the downtown NYC experimental/improv scene and may be best known for his association with John Zorn. His compositions, again necessitating scores for the band (essential given their almost Braxtonian complexity in parts), acted as jumping off points for dense group interplay, exploring textures and distorted tones.
Krauss in particular favoured unconventional tones: strangulated alto surges, lowing like a tortured cow, stuffing fabric in the horn as a mute, playing with a buzzing keening edge, or placing the bell of the horn against his leg to muffle the sound. Parker's role differed from his earlier excursion with the Pyramid Trio: here it was less about rhythmic propulsion and more about exploring the sound world. Martin supplied what momentum was needed, hitting anything and everything in the vicinity of his kit. Horvitz was fond of music box sonorities, inserting delicate tinkling patterns into the improvisations alongside muscular clusters.
They closed with Horvitz setting up an electronic keyboard voice like a broken harpsichord to play theme and variations over shaken percussion and whinnying saxophone. Parker latched onto an arco pattern played close to the bridge, which led to a closing theme statement by alto and piano with bowed bass over free percussion. A pause and then the theme repeated to conclude the set.
What a superb evening, chock full of high quality music with no weak points. I wondered whether the next evening could possibly live up to this...