Look at the credits to vibraphonist Mathias Lupri's latest disc and you'll notice that four of the six group members are credited with playing electronics along with their primary instruments. This should come as no surprise to fans of Lupri, who over the past six years and the course of three records, most notably his '02 release, Same Time Twice , has continued to hone a personal voice that is as much about ambience and atmosphere as it is about pure playing chops, although Lupri has chops aplenty.
Now with Transition Sonic he ups the ante even further with arguably his most ambitious and fully-realized album yet. While previous albums have focused on singular compositions, Transition Sonic creates something larger, a suite of pieces that can stand on their own, but when taken as a whole imply a broader sense of focus and an even richer concern for texture; and the specific crediting of electronics to members of the band only identifies that as important as the playing is, so is the pure conception of sound.
Joining Lupri again is saxophonist Mark Turner, whose underutilized and under-recognized status on the jazz scene continues to mystify. Trumpeter Cuong Vu, probably best known for his recent work with the Pat Metheny Group, fleshes out the front line to a sextet, joining lesser-knowns Nate Radley on guitar, Thomas Kneeland on bass, and Jordan Perlson on drums. Vu and Turner are both notable for having established distinctive approaches, including, in the case of Vu, some interesting extended techniques. Radley is a lyrical guitarist coming from the same general area as Kurt Rosenwinkel; even his choice of sound and processing has something in common. Kneeland and Perlson create a rhythm section capable of navigating unusual time signatures and more esoteric sonic weaves.
But at the end of the day, as strong as the group is, as solid as the interaction is and as capable as each of them is of generating solos that range from languid to exciting, Transition Sonic is more about Lupri's growth as a player and, more notably, as a writer. From the processed aural landscape of "Sonic Prelude" to the long tones that build the theme over a more frenetic rhythm section on "Sonic" and from the ballad "The Day After," with its hints of mid-'70s Gary Burton ECM work, to the more brooding, similarly cool aesthetic of "Chime Trance"Lupri's vision has continued to mature, creating a suite that is clearly best heard in its entirety.
But as important as it is to have a vision, it's equally important to be able to attract the right players to help deliver that vision. And Lupri, a relative newcomer on the scene, has managed the admirable feat of putting together groups of players who clearly understand what he is about. Raising the bar yet again with Transition Sonic , Lupri continues to assert himself as an artist worthy of the growing attention that he is receiving.
Track Listing: Sonic Prelude; Sonic; Middle Zone; The Day After; Deception; Iceland Dark; Chime Trance; Double Trouble; Prairie; Intro; Earlier Years; Sonic Reprise
Personnel: Matthias Lupri (vibraphone, electronics), Mark Turner (tenor and soprano saxophones), Cuong Vu (trumpet, electronics), Nate Radley (guitar, electronics), Thomas Kneeland (acoustic bass, electronics), Jordan Perlson (drums)
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