Mat Maneri Sustain

Taking something of a left turn from almost everything else he's recorded, violist Mat Maneri brings us In A Silent Way circa 2003. Of all the Thirsty Ear free-groove projects released thus far, this one is the best. Maneri has really found a balance between instrumental technique, rhythm and sonics, and the band he's working with walks this fine line equally well. The biggest contributors are keyboardist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Taborn uses electronics like few others, and is able to get a Rhodes to sound like Chick Corea on (more) acid, then move to wah-wah-type bleats and bass tones simultaneously. Sometimes he's playing pure abstraction, sometimes tasty licks, but always complementing what's going on. Cleaver keeps this disc from degenerating into imitation breakbeats as many other free jazz/groove fusions threaten to do; he plays abstraction with momentum, never trying to deconstruct breakbeats, while track two has him primarily exploring cymbals. The space created by these two allows for William Parker's bass to be more effective, while Joe McPhee (as the designated Wayne Shorter) plays soprano exclusively and effectively. Even the five solo showcases that alternate with the band tracks are each compelling and processed with unobtrusive but gritty electronics. Maneri as a leader lies way back amongst Taborn's keys and complements Parker's groove. A surprising triumph from someone who's recorded frequently of late and never hinted that something like this was on the way. (Thirsty Ear)