Mat Maneri | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mat Maneri 

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Violist and violinist Mat Maneri has a sound all his own: with his mahogany tone and muscular low register, he slithers from note to note like a satiated snake. But he's also mastered the idiosyncratic microtonal scale employed by his reedist father, Joe, which divides each interval in an ordinary 12-note octave into six parts. Microtonality has always had a place in jazz (think pitch-bent blue notes and sobbing glissandos), but the Maneris have made it into a science--and Mat's instruments, which can play an infinite number of minute gradations in pitch, are particularly well suited to it. In his hands familiar melodies grow slippery. Though he's capable of perfectly articulating the simple line of Coltrane's "Sun Ship" or the wild leaps of Eric Dolphy's "Iron Man"--both of which he interprets on the 2001 solo album Trinity (ECM)--he remakes the tunes instead, digging into the spaces between the notes. (At times his microtonal take on "Sun Ship" makes it sound almost like Indian classical music.) Maneri's most recent disc is a trio outing called For Consequence (Leo), where he sticks exclusively to the viola; accompanied by the kinetic percolation of rhythm section Ed Schuller (bass) and Randy Peterson (drums), he seems to stop time altogether, tracing dense melodic figures in luxurious detail. Even better is last year's Sustain (Thirsty Ear), which recalls Miles Davis's early-70s electric music: Maneri, saxophonist Joe McPhee, bassist William Parker, drummer Gerald Cleaver, and keyboardist Craig Taborn play solo and quintet pieces, unleashing swirling clusters of notes so fluid and intricate that even the piano and percussion parts suggest microtonality. For this gig Maneri will play two sets: one with Boston drummer John McLellan and a second with McLellan, reedist Ken Vandermark, and bassist Kent Kessler. Wednesday, October 1, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

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