Just recently released on Thirsty Ear, is SUSTAIN , a recording by the Mat Maneri Quartet with a special appearance by Joe McPhee on soprano sax. The ensemble is made up of Mat Maneri on viola, William Parker, string bass, Gerald Cleaver, drums and Craig Taborn on keyboards.
If there ever has been a recording that testifies to the intensity of one musical dynamic, it is this one. The idea of SUSTAIN is line, musical line, the duration of it, the complete forwardness of the music. The recording becomes the result of how within the limits of the dynamic, the various combinations of the instruments produce an everlasting sound. The pre-eminence of the capacity of each instrument within the ensemble to maintain the predominant texture is not overlooked either. The way in which the exquisitely titled cuts are arranged poeticizes the very idea of the tightness of the concept of the recording and transmits the idea of the glorious essences that exist within the instruments that constitute the quartet. Each instrument is not only played, but, inclusively, also exercised, stretched, pushed, bent: or more simply put, out and out blessed.
I cannot emphasize enough Maneri’s commitment to the course of the CD. Even when the entire group is active, it is moving in a way that unquestionably exhibits the nature of the sustained line. Rhythmic content is interjected but in a way that is continuous & unbreakable. The instruments work within this context as if to wrap around the invisible temporal structure to maintain sound integral to the continuation, not to act as vehicles for ornamentation or accentuation. Every note, every phrase has its purpose to lend to the set of sonorous abstractions.
Originally, Maneri establishes the standard of the meaning of ‘sustenuto’. Sustenuto does not indicate repetition; sustenuto demands the activity of drawing out, elongating, breathing the very notes that are being played so as to exert tonal intransigence, stamina and determination which, in itself, necessitates volumes of concentration bordering on, and no doubt sharing the space of, meditative centering. Maneri’s solo is followed in kind (alternately, that is, in between group mixtures) with solos by Taborn on piano, Parker on string bass, Cleaver on drums and finally, McPhee on soprano sax.
Taborn slowly and methodically moves single acoustic keyboard notes into an array of chords, then chords interspersed with notes & thrills & repetitions, never leaving the resonance of the strings close to the sounding board. A master of the continuous line, Parker bows from the deepest of the deep to the lightest stroke possible where it seems like only the resin on the bowstrings is being heard. Cleaver rattles & strokes the cymbals in an incredibly straight, only seldom flickering direction. And McPhee closes the entire recording with a solo where any pitches from the sax accent the melodious air blown in between the reed and the mouthpiece.
SUSTAIN addresses how we have to keep going in this life, no matter what the circumstances surrounding us are. Maneri’s intelligent approach to this concept , which after awhile becomes a belief, is truly exceptional. Creation is the bridge between reality and transcendence. Maneri has constructed a magnificently sturdy bridge.