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Joe Maneri Quartet: Coming Down The Mountain

Microtonal master, Joe Maneri upholds free jazz’s basic principles in the highest regards by foregoing annotated compositions, which forces his musicians to rely on intuitive improvisation and group empathy. As Coming Down The Mountain attests, the results can be surprisingly tranquil, especially when the musicians opt for silence and elongated contours instead of the usual bag of overpowering dissonance.

The protean nature of Maneri’s material demands a lot from the listener. The amoebic “Swing Higher” slowly develops as Maneri slowly and deliberately drops spacious single piano notes. Bassist Ed Shuller follows his lead, while Maneri slyly switches to clarinet. The plot thickens when Maneri’s son, Mat joins in the foil with smearing violin lines against Schuller arco bass. Drummer Randy Peterson coyly instigates the activity with elusive swing and dramatic accents. The dense textures and proposive underlying rhythms give “Swing Higher” a deceiving sense of form that illustrates the musical intelligence of Maneri’s quartet.

Maneri’s martini-dry tone and searching melodicism achieve a high-level of naked beauty, especially on the brooding “To End Or Not To End?,” which features him dueting with Schuller. On “Say It All” he shows more of an affinity for Monk than Cecil Taylor as he crafts a lopsided melody with alerting harmonic dissonances. The rest of the quartet proves equally effective in constructing beauty soundscapes, especially on the intriguing “Say It All.” Coming Down The Mountain is yet another fine recording by Maneri.

Originally Published