Viola-ist Mat Maneri
has spent a quarter century carving out an artistic niche that marries avant-garde jazz with microtonal music, crafting off-center masterworks like Blue Decco
(Thirsty Ear, 2000), Sustain
(Thirsty Ear, 2002), and teaming with pianist Lucian Ban
on Transylvanian Concert
(ECM Records, 2013) and sitting in on a compelling sideman slot on Ches Smith's The Bell
(ECM Records, 2016).
On Sounding Tears
, Maneri's first recording as a leader in twelve years, the viola-ist brings in, again, pianist Lucian Ban
, and makes it a trio with avant sax legend Evan Parker
As avant-garde as this music is, there is a sense of containment on Sounding Tears
. It's like a patient and measured search through uncharted territory for form and order, finding them, then weaving a stretchable cosmic web of the discoveries. Maneri says of the set: "It's like Lester Young mixed with something insane; rooted in the past of an alternate universe which may never have existed." Accurate enough. Or is it music emanating from the earliest days of the universe before gravity had pulled together the drifting and uncondensed matter? Or is it human sounds made before musical gravitation had shaped up the concepts of melody, rhythm and harmony and the twelve equal tones per octave concept?
Maneri's Lester Young comparison is interesting. Evan Parker, the saxophonist here, is probably not mentioned much in a Lester Young conversations. Young was an influential, musically loquacious, beautifully smooth, swinging master of the sax. A spin through Parker's discography will uncover some sounds that can strip the varnish off the cabinets. But hereand on his sets with pianist John Escreethe gels his approach into a malleable, idiosyncratic cohesion, with interludes that wouldn't sound too out-of-place in a bebop band.
This, of course, isn't bebop. This is Mat Maneri's spacious, amorphous, dreamy world of sound: the elastic viola lines, the spare, deep space majesty of Parker's neo-bebop, the blinking on and off of the star-shine supplied by Lucian Ban's piano. Maybe this is what music sounds like soaking into the void from the interstellar spacecraft as it travels at the speed of light.