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Album Review

Saxophonist, clarinetist, and pianist Joe Maneri, the man who as educator at the New England Conservatory introduced microtones to at least a few generations of young American musicians, engages here in a set of spirited improvisational dialogues with son Mat on electric six-string and baritone violin and Barre Phillips on five-string double bass. The two elder statesmen and the relative youngster are highly empathetic collaborators on these excursions, which fall somewhere between free jazz and experimental chamber music. While all three musicians are given equal prominence in the mix, Joe usually leads the way, with the violin and bass used to comment on or embellish the reedman's liquid phrases. Much of the improvisation floats freely in space, as slippery sax or clarinet lines intertwine with the moody arco of the unconventional strings. There is considerable variety as well, with squawks, smears, overtones, and percussive bowing all part of the expressive palette. Joe's piano interjects a few Misha Mengelberg-styled fractured Monk-isms into "When the Ship Went Down"; in "Nelgat," the pianisms are generally sparser and more atmospheric. "The Field" and "A Long Way From Home" (the CD's lengthiest track, clocking in at over 13 minutes) find Joe on clarinet, at once keening and then etching sonic squiggles in the air. "The Aftermath" features Phillips and Mat in a spacious duet, pulling dark notes out of silence. "Elma My Dear," a duet with Phillips and Joe on tenor, begins calmly enough but moves through tension-filled episodes, before a tentative reconciliation is suggested. At several points in the CD, Joe, the former street preacher, steps out with vocal recitations that flirt with the Phil Minton school of Dadaist absurdism. Joe's private language, delivered with disarming emotional directness, actually conceals allusions to artistic pioneers both musical and literary. Tales of Rohnlief is music for the adventurous listener with time to savor its subtleties. But those with ears tuned to more conventional musical rules should still find plenty of beauty, warmth, and even humor in this recording.


Born: 27 October 1934 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Bassist Barre Phillips is one of a group of expatriate American musicians who have left U.S. shores for greener pastures. In the case of Phillips, the expression can be taken literally. His adopted home is a lovely and very much rural section of southern France, where he has been residing in an old chateau since the early '70s. He has been living in Europe since 1967. Phillips is part of an even more exclusive group of well-improvising musicians who have been able to fit comfortably into the free...
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Tales of Rohnlief, Barre Phillips
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