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Pentagon by Mat Maneri

Having known Mat Maneri’s music fairly well for quite awhile, I was taken aback by the diversification of instrumentation embodied within this recording as well as the intended inherent message of its musical design. This recording addresses a continuing argument about the nature of art and "what it is good for"--- to be quite basic about it. Maneri has exhibited the scope of his conceptualism; his capacity to orchestrate the sounds necessary to propound his ideas manifests the intelligence and brilliance of his musicianship.

Maneri grew up surrounded by both the visual arts and music. Through exposure to these disciplines together and a "Europeanism" that pervaded his life, he is able to imagine the depths of mature artistic multi-dimensionality. What Mat Maneri has done in Pentagon is to translate into a programmatic, multi-instrumental musical form, observations and editorializing which pictures and words could portray. He has packed the recording, considerable as a complete unit, with an assortment of emotions, a notebook of irony and a tight, yet, saliently flexible structure.

Maneri’s string playing is the voice of the recording. The sound that he generates singularly models the disposition of the music that remains. Where the strings prevail in the waves of the musical exposition includes an abstracted mood-building entry, a mid-recording improvisation of the song, "People," and at the end in a straightforward layout of "America."

A density of layers spelling out dissonance and details which are interspersed with elastic chordal broadness and macroscopic fluidity speak of the multiplicity of dynamics that are symptomatic of Maneri’s playing alone. It is without doubt that his musical vision penetrates the stack of transparencies that, when laminated, come to equal a sound that is provocative, highly individual and when you think about it, gut-wrenching.

The polyphony of the variegated ensemble in the recording describes states of confusion, melancholy, hurt, sourness, loneliness, anger, and unity. The ensemble tells a story which has associated with it real-life viewpoints: viewpoints that affront the support of a hard-lined deficiency of mindfulness.

Oh, I don’t know.... it just sounds crazy....

When scrutinizing this music, you can hear all the questioning cries within an atmosphere that comes with war, irrationality, evisceration, destruction and the profundity of what all that means. The sounds coming from adventuresome electronics, exaggerated vocals, both electric and acoustic keyboards, electric and acoustic string instruments and uncomplicated and percussive drumming circulate through the body of music that Maneri has mapped out. Explicitly pinpointed instrumentals rise above a backdrop of phrasings; this evenly-paced, well-balanced seemingly limitless process showcases one instrument and then another and then another. The envelope, containing extraordinary tonal mixtures, some melody and tinted, amped-up pulsations, interlocked with the constantly changing surface on which they ride, Maneri has opened wide. There is no sound that is inaudible. All performance is exquisite.

The fine line between living and making music is traveled in this recording in a way that has integrity and force. The music’s potency is not evasive. It stares at you just like Maneri’s deep dark eyes could and do.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Mat Maneri
  • CD Title: Pentagon
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Thirsty Ear
  • Musicians: Mat Maneri (acoustic and electric violin and violas), Ben Gerstein (trombone), Craig Taborn (Fender Rhodes and laptop), Joe Maneri (organs, acoustic and electric pianos, alto sax and voice), Jamie Saft (melatron), John Herbet (bass), John McLellan (drums), Tom Rainey (drums), T.K. Ramakrishnan (mridungum), Sonja Maneri (voice)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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