Friday, November 04, 2005

Mat Maneri Pentagon (Thirsty Ear, 2005)

Violinist Mat Maneri has been very active on the avant-garde scene over the past couple of years, recording acoustically for the Leo Label, and in more electric and eclectic settings for the Thirsty Ear label. Like his previous Thirsty Ear albums, his new album, Pentagon, mines the rich legacy of the electrified music produced by Miles Davis from 1968-75 except in this case with the violin taking the place of the trumpet.

This is not an album of slavish emulation however, far from it. The band uses the music of the past as a jumping off point, using rippling electric Fender Rhodes piano, electric violins and horns. These are the most successful tracks along with the final track, 'America' which ends the disc on an elegiac note with a short acoustic violin improvisation. Along with the somewhat groove oriented tracks, there are some spacier tunes that allow the band a little more room to move. Vocals do pop up on a couple of occasions, with a female vocalist giving a haunting, breathy reading of the standard 'Motherless Child.' Mat's father, the legendary saxophonist Joe Maneri takes a scat vocal as well, albeit of limited effectiveness.

Overall, the album feels a little bit scattered with a mix of acoustic, electric and vocal tracks. A focus on one of the three would have led to a more coherent and consistent flow of music. Nevertheless, when the music and the musicians click, especially on the electric tracks, the results are impressive. I hope Thirsty Ear considers a live album of the electric side of this group, they must be a blast in a small club.

Send comments to: Tim