Mat Maneri Quartet Blue Decco

Violinist Mat Maneri has assembled an excellent group for this release in Thirsty Ear's jazz series. Gerald Cleaver (drums), William Parker (bass) and Craig Taborn (piano) respond well to Manieri's fluid rhythms. There is a very pleasant elasticity to the rhythm (or freedom, depending on the song). Nowhere is this better executed than in the opening version of age-old lullaby "Hush Little Baby." Maneri's close harmonies and increasingly frenetic playing certainly won't soothe. Parker is at his sideman best, supportive but not busy and inserting a few more walking bass lines than usual. Producer Matthew Shipp makes sure that Taborn sounds beautiful, even as he tends to the background. Maneri is by far the main solo voice. He has great phrasing and technique and a strong penchant to go far out in his playing, which has served him well in duet settings with the likes of Cecil Taylor. Maneri never runs out of ideas in his phrasing, but after a while one wishes he played a bit more aggressively. There is an age-old jazz prejudice against the violin (and the flute) that maintains it doesn't produce a commanding enough sound to be the main soloist of a group. That may in fact be the case here, and some may dismiss this album out of hand as a result. While this is a worthy release in the Blue Series, I still keep thinking he's got the chops to do more with his instrument sonically. (Thirsty Ear)