Angles of Repose is the brand new release of a 2-year-old recording made at Chapelle Sainte Philomène, an old chapel in the south of France. Mat and dad Joe Maneri brought the veteran bassist Barre Phillips into the fold for these very personal music-making sessions, and ECM saw fit to share the results with us. The fine recording only hints at what must have been a gorgeous session, but the downside of playing in a church, I suppose, is an almost inevitable somnolence. Not to worry there are radiant passages that pleasingly ruffle the record's generally inward- reaching composure.
The opening statement develops lazily, the elder Maneri vocalizing through his horn as strings ooze lugubrious chords. Joe's sax flutters, sputters, squonks and growls over the low strings, providing higher tonal and emotional frequencies. The next piece starts with an airy, flickering sax/viola duet kept company by a thrumming bass line. Here, and throughout, Joe deploys his mastery of counterpoint, choosing a mellow, drawn out bass note for a busy, bright line of attack, always finding the perfect moments for stops and starts. Younger Maneri and Joe's contemporary, Phillips, turn in no less expert performances.
The instruments work very well together, and the balanced recording reveals each voice distinctly. These are seasoned players in top shape improvising very good music, live. Stylistically and texturally, the music isn't rangy, but there are enough calibrations of intensity, using solos and duos, which give shape to the record as a whole and provide contrast to the dominant trio passages.
Angles of Repose could have benefited from a bit less repose. The music is so lovely, it's a shame it so often lapses into lethargy. This makes the record a little hard to stick with, but if you can muster the patience the stronger passages are a pretty satisfying payoff. The players are probably a little too decorous, and could have unleashed more fire and made a fuller sound more of the time. It sounds almost reluctant at times. I kept waiting for the big release, but it rarely comes, and never really with enough fire to feel like a climax. Yet, if you're ready to forgo excitement, this recording endows many moments of subime, contemplative sonic beauty.
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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