The first entirely solo album by a violinist who initially came to wider attention playing with his father, the microtonal composer and saxophone innovator Joe Maneri, on the 1995 ECM recording "Three Men Walking". As Michael Sliwkowski notes in the CD booklet, "Mat Maneri has played Aron to Joe Maneri's Moses ' to borrow a Schoenbergian reference ' on four previous ECM recordings, helping to communicate to the outside world the difficult path of his father. All along, however, there has also been something more at work, the shaping of a sound of his own, which blends jazz phrasing with chamber music dynamics, and draws inspiration from the baroque fugue and the scattered music traditions of the world, as well as from free improvisation."
Born in 1969 in Brooklyn, where he still lives, Mat Maneri has been playing violin since he was five. A child prodigy who was later to abandon the classical career mapped out for him, he studied with Juilliard String Quartet co-founder Robert Koff from the age of 11, and there were later studies with jazz bassists Miroslav Vitous and Dave Holland. Early influences on his own improvising included the music of John Coltrane and Elliott Carter, as well as the music of India - these influences are paramount on "Trinity."
Mat Maneri was in large measure responsible for the late musical "coming out" of his father. Joe Maneri was lured back to live performance after a hiatus of many years to play, in 1990, with Mat's group Persona, which later modulated into the now widely-known Joe Maneri Quartet, one of the last "cult bands" of free jazz. Mat has recorded with that quartet for ECM ("In Full Cry", 1996) as well as in duo with his father ("Blessed", 1997), and in trios in which the two Maneris are joined by guitarist Joe Morris ("Three Men Walking", 1995), and bassist Barre Phillips ("Tales of Rohnlief", 1998).
Since the mid-1990s, Mat has been at the epicentre of new jazz creativity in America, is a leader of his own groups (recorded widely on a slew of little labels) and has played improvised music with a broad range of partners including Cecil Taylor, Borah Bergman, Connie Bauer, William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Joe Morris, Bern Nix, Randy Peterson, Pandelis Karayorgis, Guillermo Gregorio, Steven Lantner, KeithYaun, Indo-jazz fusion group Natraj and many others. (This multifarious activity has been noted by the critics and in 2000 Maneri placed prominently in the Critics Polls of Down Beat and Jazz Times).
The genesis of the present recording goes back to the ECM festival in Badenweiler in 1998 when, after a spirited performance playing electric instruments alongside his father, Mat borrowed an acoustic viola to participate in a late-night jam session with John Surman, Tomasz Stanko, Marilyn Crispell, Dominique Pifarély and Michele Makarski. Manfred Eicher immediately proposed an acoustic solo recording, which was realised in Gateway Studio in Kingston, England, the following year.
Built originally to the specifications of the London Sinfonietta as an optimum rehearsal space, Gateway is uncommonly responsive to the sound of strings and Maneri's violin and viola sing with a rich resonance.
Material on "Trinity" balances compositions by Mat with pieces by his associates Matthew Shipp and Joe Morris, pieces by John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy and, in conclusion, a microtonal composition dedicated to Billie Holiday and Lester Young, written by Joe Maneri. Of the album as a whole, Mat says: "I didn't want to just flaunt technique, the typical 'solo' approach. I hope to play in my own voice. That's the aim: bringing all my influences together and doing something true to who I am and what I hear."
Michael Sliwkowski: "Mat's pieces on the present album reveal a consistent structural approach, where a written melodic row is introduced and then improvised upon, the aim being to achieve a sense of integral compositional logic on a solo instrument. The title track, 'Trinity', where three tone rows enter into fugue-like polyphony, is a particularly striking instance of thinking on multiple levels without abandoning a sense of musical flow. The same is true of 'November 1st', where Maneri seems to become two separate voices in an unplanned allusion to the adagio of Elliott Carter's first string quartet. It is in such moments that one can claim that the music itself is in dialogue with the solo performer.
"Then there are the interpretations of other composers: Eric Dolphy's trademark intervallic leaps, which Mat makes sound flowing and natural, are on display in 'Iron Man', and, in a synthesis John Coltrane himself aspired towards, 'Sun Ship' is rethought by way of India. On 'Sun Ship' the deep tones of the viola start out slowly and then explode in dazzling rhythmic patterns, making explicit the connection Mat feels with the music of India."
Mat Maneri is planning a series of solo concerts, based around the "Trinity", pieces in America. The trio with Mat, Barre Phillips and Joe Maneri will be touring on both sides of the Atlantic in 2001 (check the ECM web site at www.ecmrecords.com for more details). Mat Maneri goes back into the studio in March 2001 to participate in an ECM "production project" with Scottish singer/songwriter Robin Williamson.