And it was so that the audience zeroed in and focused on Joe and Mat Maneri, father and son duo, at the second of the Solos and Duos Series of concerts at UMass/Amherst on October 28.
The intimacy of the experience of making music surrounded the two players as an aura. A complementary interplay emanated from the performance for the reason that Joe plays sax and clarinet and Mat plays viola. Mat’s playing is as smooth as silk and Joe’s is sporadically temperamental and melodious. However, looking beyond the superficial aspects of the music, the aspects that are in the air and which float over you, you can tell that these two men have the same musical genes. It has to do with their approach to their instruments.Their approaches tell more about the individuals than could ever be expected.
Joe is a master at wiggling the notes he plays. Arpeggiations blend with the brash reedy squeaks and high squeals and occasional low long blowing that identify Joe’s characteristic separation of notes. He weaves syllabic vocalization in the midst of the instrumental lines. Joe might swing into bluesy phrases, but does not have a penchant for the continuous. Joe took the opportunity to perform an Ellington tune on the piano. The predominant pattern of his playing did not break, even here, because he still was working with discrete keys, similar to the discrete valves on his horns.
Mat mostly plays sustenuto--every stroke of the bow is dedicated to the strings over which it is artfully pulled. How Mat selects and plays the pitches is the key to his distinctive, exquisite, captivating essence. Mat projects the idea of infinitesimal wavelengths that constitute the structure of his sound. The stringency with which he lengthens the extent of the notes can take the listener to another world. When he goes for deeper tones, his inhalation and body position drive him into penetrating the pitches so that they become so deep that, at least, I did not want him to stop going there. Distinctive also is the manner in which Mat searches for a landing place on the strings--he circles the bow around, just near the bridge on the neck of the viola, until he is ready to touch the strings. His playing is breathtaking and exceedingly sensual.
The patterning between Joe and Mat is interlocked. Both twinkle with angelic effervescence. Both have great respect for each other and reverence for what they do. Their message is so powerful that it ushered me to thinking about my own philosophy of life. And that is that even though choices are seemingly endless, limits exist and within them, anything can happen, yet a host of stopping and going points are unforeseeable and can mean the beginning of a new process or the end of one. The two always collide.