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Album Review

You never really know quite what to expect from string virtuoso Mat Maneri; it seems he makes a different type of record every time out. A quick perusal of the album and song titles ("Pentagon," "War Room," "Wound,") might lead you to believe that Pentagon is some kind of progressive political treatise. That may be true at some very abstract level, but another track title is more indicative of where this album is really at: "Witches Woo." Aside from the lovely string opener and closer, and a couple brief tracks with hip-hop-type beats and turntables, this album sounds like a direct homage to Miles Davis' groundbreaking 1970 album. Fender Rhodes, electric piano, and organ, along with a dual drum setup, give the same rich but spacy sound with Maneri's electric violin in place of Miles' wah trumpet (the resemblance there is uncanny). The keyboard playing of Craig Taborn and Joe Maneri sparkles (Joe also gets some space on alto on one cut), and Mat Maneri's playing on both electric and acoustic violin/viola is incredible. Despite the song titles, the music is not dark or fact, the title cut features Joe Maneri doing some scat singing until he cracks up at the end (not exactly dark or foreboding). Was Maneri was trying to draw some parallel between the increasing malaise of the U.S. quagmires in Iraq and Vietnam and extrapolate that parallel somehow to revolutionary music? It doesn't really matter. The bottom line is that Maneri and his bandmates have re-created a sound that few have attempted, let alone mastered, and one that still sounds fresh 35 years down the road. If you like Bitches Brew, you need to check this out.


Born: 1969 in New York, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Son of microtonal clarinetist, saxophonist, pianist, improviser, theorist, and composer Joseph Maneri, Mat Maneri began playing music with his father when he was only seven. Though Joseph is himself a near-legend among avant-garde and jazz musicians, son Mat has already surpassed his father's recorded output in the course of his relatively short career. Specializing in various violin derivatives, Mat plays the five-string viola, the electric six-string violin, and the baritone violin. He has worked...
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Pentagon, Mat Maneri
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