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Joe Maneri Quartet: Tenderly

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The Joe Maneri group’s sound is quite distinct. The leader plays clarinet, tenor, and alto sax with rare originality, but in many ways the key element in the ensemble is his son Mat’s six-string electric violin. This is unhurried, uncluttered music that moves on its measured way with sure step, but the feeling is almost uneasy, like a delicate balance that could be violently upset at any moment. Mat follows Stuff Smith’s approach to amplification and really goes after the electric sound on his instrument-not volume-wise, but tonally. His ethereal sound is like no other violinist’s, but it is the perfect foil for the leader’s round tone. The violin’s eerie double stops don’t so much fill-up the middle as stretch it sideways. Bassist Ed Schuller is responsible for such minimal forward motion as there is, and I have rarely heard a drummer so intent on not filling space as Randy Peterson. Nothing is easy about this music, including describing it. It refuses to go in any expected direction, yet every turn it takes is true to a consistent vision shared by all four musicians, not one of whom ever takes a wrong step. A most impressive recording.