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Metalix by Matthias Lupri Group

With each successive CD he releases, Summit Records vibist Matthias Lupri exhibits noticeable growth. Not only that, but he also becomes increasingly experimental. In that respect, among many others, he resembles his former teacher and mentor, jazz vibes legend Gary Burton. While Burton determined that vibes could be a leading instrument in the fusion movement of the late sixties and seventies, expanding upon the use of the instrument beyond swing and bebop, Lupri is leading a movement that integrates vibes with the electronic possibilities afforded by increasingly sophisticated music technology. While Burton found ways to coax new sonic possibilities from the instrument, such as the bending of notes somewhat akin to a technique associated with saxophonists, Lupri experiments with the sound of a violin bow drawn across the bars, an odd and utterly original vibration that appropriately supports the ethereal textures created by the original sonic landscape set up by the electronic enhancement. That first piece, "Metalix IV Prelude" which includes concludes with a sudden fwoop as if the control to a playback device had been turned off.

However, the initial elements of "Metalix IV Prelude" provide hints for the entire suite that follows, as Lupri continues elaborations upon the motive introduced there. In addition, the energy of bassist Thomson Kneeland and drummer Jordan Perlson creates an undercurrent of excitement beneath the haunting dark overlays. And so, the next track, "Wondering & Wandering," takes those first inchoate suggestions another stage into the development of the entire suite that Lupri has composed. With the release of each new CD, Lupri proves himself to be a broadly encompassing composer, not satisfied with mere songs or abbreviated pieces, but rather with extended complex compositions that proceed through variations and movements and step-by-step development of a theme. In the case of Metalix, Lupri has taken enormous strides forward, both in innovation, wide-ranging thematic development, metrical challenge and instrumental technique. Acting more as composer and arranger than as instrumentalist, Lupri utilizes all of the resources available to him to put forth his music as the totality of his group’s sound obviously becomes more important to him than recording as a soloist supported by sidemen. Moreover, Lupri once again has chosen some exceptional emerging talent to join him in executing his sonic vision, as he this time writes for two saxophonists, Myron Walden and Donny McCaslin.

Taking that nugget of a theme from "Metalix IV Prelude," Lupri’s work consists of divergent moods and hints of visual interest. "Wondering & Wandering" itself sweeps through improvisational contrasts in a five-four meter as each of the members of the group expresses his own ideas about the theme. "(another) Lost Creek" allows the saxophonists to lead, Lupri providing the glassy colors behind them, as the delicacy of the piece is presented with poignancy and beauty. In contrast, though the same motive is supported through hints, "Ghost Cluster" consists of a meterless buildup of textures, one on top of the other, without an obviously stated chorded harmonic structure.

Though each discreet track contributes to the whole of Metalix, often they stand alone in their own distinctive ways. One example is Lupri’s exercise in virtuosity on "TD Vibe Intro," performed as a solo in a rapid scurry that stands apart from the sustained support that Lupri provides behind his band on most of the pieces. Or, "(Still) Lingering" evolves into a luminous song of pearlescent individuality played eventually with tonal clarity by Walden on soprano saxophone, evidence of Lupri’s awareness of the potential of melody in addition to all of the other resources at his command.

Ending with a reminder of the theme presented at the beginning of the recording, the final track, "Metalix Déjà Vu" twists together all of the threads of the preceding tracks and creates a fabric representative of all of the music that Metalix contains. Formerly a drummer, Matthias Lupri has chosen to make his artistic statement on a minority instrument among jazz groups. Still, the originality of his thought and the progress of his imagination have positioned Lupri as one of the most interesting jazz musicians currently building a body of his own work, one CD at a time.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Matthias Lupri Group
  • CD Title: Metalix
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Summit Records
  • Tracks: Metalix IV Prelude, Wondering & Wandering, (another) Lost Creek, Still, (Still) Lingering, Glass Stairs, Metalix, Metalix Abstract, Dream Nocturne, Ghost Clusters, Lonely Interlude, Flowers for Mary Jane, TD Vibe Intro, Time Design, Wondering & Wandering Reprise, Metalix Deja Vu
  • Musicians: Matthias Lupri (vibraphone, electronics); Myron Walden (alto & soprano saxophone, bass clarinet); Donny McCaslin (tenor & soprano saxophone, alto flute); Nate Radley (guitar, electronics); Thomson Kneeland (bass, electronics); Jordan Perlson (drums, percussion)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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