Mat Maneri

Pentagon

On his most ambitious album to date, renowned forward-jazz violinist Mat Maneri directs some of the headiest, head-spinning music of the year, and yet his message is very clear: Unity is where it's at. The NYC-based artist's 10-piece ensemble merges instrumental textures -- both electronic (amped-up strings, keys, and computers) and acoustic (sax, trombone, piano, and drums) -- into deeply layered compositions that churn genres with an elegance that belies the music's street-level heart and soul. While Maneri's dynamic mix draws liberally from classical, jazz, avant-garde, hip hop, rock, experimental, and electronica, such labels don't come close to representing the true character of this effort. There's no cut-and-pasting of aesthetics here. Rather, the orchestra somehow seems to channel all of these styles at once. Likewise, there's no distinction between the music's solid grooves and its fractured rhythms, straight-up melodies and angular or atonal phrases, harmonic development and deluge of pure sound. In this rarest of unions, the whole is not the sum of its parts; the whole is the whole -- there's no such thing as "parts." Maneri underscores his point with titles like "Howl in My Head/Motherless Child," "America," and "The War Room," suggesting that we need to come together now ... before it's too late.

 
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