Joe Maneri is a real original. A professor at the New England Conservatory of Music, he has developed a microtonal system involving a 72-note scale, but he is by no means merely a theoretician; on this disc he brings theory to thrilling life in a quartet with his son Mat, who plays a 6-string electric violin, bassist Ed Schuller, and drummer Randy Peterson.
Joe Maneri himself plays alto and tenor saxophones and clarinet. Occasionally on all three horns (even on clarinet on "Swing" for just a moment) he moves toward multiphonics, but this is not a primary feature of his playing. On all three instruments he has an astounding ability to play glissandos that begin, move through, and rest at unexpected places: yes, he plays microtonally, and does so magnificently. Ornette Coleman delves into mictrotones to achieve some of the unique "cry" of his saxophone playing; Maneri, however, goes Ornette one better in relying to a much greater degree on this approach. Moreover, Joe's quartet on this disc is admirably attuned to his sound, and complements him perfectly - particularly his son Mat.
Many of the cuts have a strange suspended feel, at once both languid and tense. This is courtesy both the microtonal Maneris as well as the rhythm section, which doesn't so much keep time as create it, expanding and contracting it as necessity requires. The brief "Vignette #2," with Joe on tenor and Schuller on bow, is the sound of this quartet in microcosm: fluid, lurching, crying out and buttoned-down all at once. But the newcomer to Joe Maneri's sound may find the unexpected covers most immediately interesting: "What' New" and "Tenderly." Most affecting is Joe's habit of sliding, as noted above, from note to note, giving both of these old warhorses a new and striking makeover.
Tenderly is, in the very best sense, unlike anything else that's being put out these days, except other discs by Joe Maneri. It is essential listening for anyone interested in the genuine and fresh development of the jazz tradition.
Hatology discs can be obtained from North Country distributors, Cadence Bldg., Redwood, NY 13679. Phone/fax: (315) 287-2852 and (315) 287-2860. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: http://www.cadencebuilding.com.
Track Listing: Ascend / Swing / Vignette #1 / Vignette #2 / What's New / Five Short Pieces / Alto / Tenderly
Personnell: Joe Maneri (tenor & alto saxophones, clarinet); Mat Maneri (6-string electric violin); Ed Schuller (bass); Randy Peterson (drums)