The Joe Maneri Trio: Balance + Pulse
Balance + Pulse
The Joe Maneri Trio
The Trio Concerts (Leo LR 307/308)
Composed by Joe Maneri Trio.
Recorded: Jamaica Plain, MA, October 19, 1997
Rating: 94/100 (learn more)
Aside from the trombone, probably no wind instrument better lends itself to microtonal manipulation than the saxophone. Depending upon his or her reed/mouthpiece combination, a skilled saxophonist can cover the intervallic range of a major second or more merely by varying the shape and strength of the embouchure. While it's true that jazz saxophonists have used flexible pitch as an expressive device since the music's beginning, none have made it a more essential part of their work than Joe Maneri. Maneri has devised a theory involving a 72-note-to-the-octave scale, yet his application of microtonal techniques in the context of improvisation seems wholly organic, a matter of intuition.
On "Balance + Pulse," Maneri on tenor sax is joined by son Mat (playing what is presumably a baritone violin) and Randy Peterson on drums. The music has a classical sensibility, owing partly to the recording's recital-hall ambience and the players' rapt attention to concerns of texture and dynamics. (Mat's chosen instrument and classically precise style also plays a role.) Maneri's playing has a bluesy quality that's abstracted from considerations of blues tonality. There are no blue notes per se, but each note has the expressive quality of the blues by virtue of his inflections and meandering, quasi jazz-like rhythms. Peterson's work is the most explicit jazz element. His largely discontinuous style doesn't swing in a conventional sense. Instead, he plays a nearly melodic role, on the same plane as the violin and tenor.
In combination, the men produce a stirring performance. Far from being different for difference's sake, Joe Maneri's music suggests compelling new areas of exploration accessible to anybody and everybody. That's the true measure (and value) of innovation, in my book.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey