There are moments that are forever imprinted in one’s mind. Feelings and impressions from scenes past from decades before can be recalled instantaneously with the appropriate trigger. These memories shape lives and attitudes, whether recalled impeccably or distorted by time.
Thus, following the elusiveness of Dust (Sunnyside, 2021) comes the permanence of Ash. Violist/composer/improviser Mat Maneri presents the second volume in his series of quartet music, this installment, Ash, focusing on the residue of memories burned into the mind.
Maneri’s Dust recording cemented the sound of his quartet, an ensemble built around impressionistic interpretations of Maneri’s singular compositions with an incredible cast of brilliant improvisers and friends. Drummer Randy Peterson and bassist John Hébert have been regular musical partners for decades and pianist Lucian Ban has become an essential colleague over the past dozen years.
After the first recording, Maneri began to consider making a series of recordings, settling on the idea of a trilogy. This second installment, Ash, focuses on the metaphysical aspects of a physical byproduct, as did Dust. Maneri likens the burned in memories of his childhood and teenage years to the ash that a fire leaves behind. Elements of these memories are usually distinct and permanent, but sometimes they are faded or hazy.
The quartet coalesced to record five originals by Maneri and two pieces by Ban at the Clubhouse recording studio in Rhinebeck, New York in October 2021. In addition to the music, poet and collaborator Denver Buston provides imaginative, picturesque descriptions of the music.
The recording begins with the title track, a haunting, wafting piece that quietly sets a mood with subtle but constant movement provided by all four musicians. Ban’s “Dust to Dust” is an extension of his “Mojave” from the Dust album, revisiting its tonal world and reserved emotion. Maneri’s “Earth” utilizes a passage from an improvisation from his father, the late great Joe Maneri, to create the melody.
The Andante from Johannes Brahms’s Viola Sonata No. 1, Opus 120 was engraved in Maneri’s memory when he was a child, as one of his father’s students, violist James Bergin, played it over and over. Here Maneri takes elements of the piece and twists them as he remembers them into a microtonal assemblage that Maneri brought together from decades old recollections of the piece.
Ban’s “Glimmer” provides a bit of brightness from the ashes, as the band strikes a hushed but optimistic chord. The viola playing of Bergin was illuminating for the young Maneri and the latter reinterprets a passage of Bergin’s to construct “Moon,” a piece whose pace and restraint are its beauty. The recording concludes with “Cold World Lullaby,” which utilizes three separate melodies, including one by composer Sol Kaplan from the film, The Spy Who Came In from The Cold, Ban’s “New World,” and a Sicilian lullaby that Maneri’s grandfather used to sing to him.
The music that Mat Maneri and his quartet make sounds as though it is remembered in a dream, like old melodies manifesting themselves in the subconscious mind. The otherworldly vibe that they create on Ash continues a path through the detritus of memory to the conclusion, the clearing of the Mist.
released August 11, 2023
Mat Maneri - viola
Lucian Ban - piano
John Hébert - bass
Randy Peterson - drums
After a precision liftoff in Tabasco and setting a course to travel the space ways from planet to planet, the album peels away through a wormhole just past Saturn in the eponymous track Mayan Space Station to journey through time and space in Canyons of Light. eric F