Fifty-one Sorrows is quite aptly named, for it features Mat Maneri at his most morose. The title track is a long, searching piece that has something to do, according to the liner notes, with "the extreme sorrow within joy." Maneri's playing expresses this profundity well, for even at its most sorrowful on this disc there is a fleeting and quicksilver joy at its heart.
This peculiar duality in Maneri's playing is perhaps most apparent on his homages to Ornette Coleman: the two covers of Ornette's latter-day piece "Tone Dialing." Rendered on baritone violin, its bright Ornetteishness is somewhat obscured, although Maneri does engage in a feisty bit of Ornetteian violin on these tracks. But they do show how much Maneri's subtle microtonal approach fits hand-in-glove with Ornette's own tone-bending harmolodics.
Maneri is joined on this disc by bassist Ed Schuller and drummer Randy Peterson. Peterson can work up quite a lather but is at his most intriguing during the quiet and lugubrious passages, during which all the colors that he adds can be heard most clearly. Schuller, meanwhile, is a marvel. He is content with a subordinate role here, but what a role it is. He breathes together with Maneri, and finds apt replies to his every sally. His all-too-brief solos on "Tone Dialing" are also worthy of note.
But this is a Maneri-led date, and Maneri leads it. Anyone who doesn't yet know the joys of his peerless and original violin playing and his keenly informed but utterly individual improvisational sense should not miss this one.
Mat Maneri, bari vln; Ed Schuller, b; Randy Peterson, d.
Track listing: Blessed / Tone Dialing / Ph Level / Fifty-one Sorrows / Power Street / Tone Dialing (alternate take) / OCD / Through In.