For decades, the Boston-based musician Joe Maneri has pursued his singular vision of a freely improvised music based on extensive use of microtones. He often includes his son Mat in his projects. On Angles Of Repose , the Maneris are joined by the prodigiously gifted bassist Barre Phillips in a program of ten free improvisations.
These performances unfold gradually, often with one of the musicians playing a phrase, and the others reacting with variations on the opening phrase. The elder Maneri's instrument seems to emerge as a lead voice, with the strings entwining beneath him. Phillips plays many lines that consist of long arco tones. The younger Maneri, heard here on viola, demonstrates a gorgeous tone and an uncanny empathy with his father.
The Maneris inhabit an utterly unique sonic universe, one that took me considerable listening before I could comfortably dwell there. Their music has little rhythmic variety, to the point of achieving a sort of rubato stasis. However, when Joe plays clarinet, as on "Number Two," he favors long, fast phrases that acquire some momentum. Yet despite the seeming monotony here, concentrated listening reveals an attractive yearning quality. This quality occurs most often when the musicians converge on a collectively discovered tone or phrase that goes straight to the listener's heart.
But to these ears most of Angles Of Repose is spent in a search for a unity of sound that is too often elusive. Make no mistake, these are virtuoso musicians making highly original music, and concentrated listening will yield rewards to the committed listener. But I suspect that this album is best suited for those already familiar with the Maneris and their music.
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.
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