Tales of Rohnlief
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Saxophonist, clarinetist, and pianist Joe Maneri 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. 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. Joe's piano ranges from Misha Mengelberg-styled fractured Monk-isms to (usually) a sparser and more atmospheric playing. "The Aftermath" features Phillips and Mat in a spacious duet, while "Elma My Dear," finds the bassist with Joe on tenor, a duet which begins calmly enough but moves through tension-filled episodes to a tentative reconciliation. 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
Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s
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