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Stone Quartet - Live at Vision Festival

Clifford Allen, The New York City Jazz Record

Violinist/violist and composer Mat Maneri first came to prominence in the early to mid ‘90s working in ensembles led by his late father, composer and reedman Joe Maneri. The elder Maneri was and is something of a hero in microtonal improvisation and the two players steadily worked on developing spare, bent, instantaneous chamber music. With an approach that transgresses Western harmony, Mat Maneri’s string palette expanded to include the baritone violin and six-string electric violin as well as traditional violin and viola, thus broadening his non-tempered range. That said, his own work has often fallen within the realm of accessible modernism. In other words, it is nothing that someone whose ears are tuned to the music of the last century couldn’t handle.

Maneri is one of four equally prominent voices on the allstar game that is the Stone Quartet, which also includes French bassist Joëlle Léandre, pianist Marilyn Crispell and trumpeter/flutist Roy Campbell, Jr. on two group improvisations recorded live at the 2010 Vision Festival. The first piece begins with a stirring midrange duet between Maneri (on viola) and Léandre, swooping lines and bullish fiddling offset by pocket trumpet gurgles and Crispell’s fractured bombs (on a somewhat out-of-tune piano). The general mode seems to be a continual breaking off into smaller, sparser combos and reconvening in massive whorls of sound. The most rewarding moments are the most melodic, when viola and brass keen alongside Crispell’s glassy, upper-register filigree, or parallel and contrasting duets emerge to accent fisticuffs with grace and detail. Though quite different in temperament, each possible pairing can result in some beautiful, intense improvising. When Campbell switches to flute and the bassist uses her voice, the quartet approximates a post-Darmstadt chamber group, perhaps derived from Luciano Berio. At its heights, the Stone Quartet’s Vision performance produced some captivating music that deserves a rehearing.