Besides being shorthand for acoustic guitarist Alex de Grassi, electric bassist Michael Manring and percussionist Christopher Garcia, De-Mania’s name hints at the nature of this leaderless ensemble and its woven approach to jazz improvisation, world beat and the occasional cross-cultural flashback. Indeed, the trio’s version of the Stones’ “Paint It Black,” rhythmically reconfigured and reverberating with sitar-like overtones produced by de Grassi’s sympitar, sounds as if it were recorded following a Balkan retreat with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Still, anyone familiar with de Grassi’s penchant for alternate tunings and Manring’s signature fretless bass work isn’t likely to be surprised by their close-knit collaborations with the lesser known Garcia on this self-titled debut, even when the trio is busy emphasizing its intercontinental reach and when odd time signatures and a small arsenal of percussion instruments (tabla, kanjira, mbwata, cymbals) come into play.
After all, the group doesn’t stray so far afield that it loses touch with blues tonalities or swing pulses, as the opening tracks “This Side Up” and “Homestyle” illustrate. What’s more, it’s impossible to listen to “The Black Hand” without being reminded of the profound influence that Jaco Pastorius had on Manring’s development or sensing the musical kinship that links DeMania with Shakti. Save for the Stones hit, the only piece not composed by a member of DeMania here is “The Water Is Wide,” which finds DeGrassi again playing sympitar, though this time around the overtones help produce a Deep South shimmer.