Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Recent Passings

They say deaths come in threes, but it seems like many notable people in and out of the jazz world have passed away recently. In addition to George Russell, drummer Rashied Ali and multi-reedist Joe Maneri recently left us. Ali is probably the better known musician, due to his work with John Coltrane on Concert in Japan and, most famously, Interstellar Space shortly before Coltrane passed away in 1967. His approach to free rhythms solidified and extended what had been started by Sunny Murray, Andrew Cyrille and Milford Graves.

Joe Maneri, a Boston-area legend, was a one-of-a-kind voice who played alto, tenor, clarinet and piano. He is best-known for pioneering micro-tonal playing, which divides the octave into 72 tones rather than the 12-tone equal temperment system found in most Western music. He was a long-time faculty member of the New England Conservatory of Music and counted Matthew Shipp among his students.

Joe experienced a renewal of interest in his music starting in the 90's, based partly on the emergence of his son, Mat, as a bright new voice on violin and viola. Maneri recorded for both Leo and ECM; his albums with Mat and bassist Barre Phillips, Tales of Rohnlief and Angles of Repose, are a good place to start an exploration of his music, as is the duet album with Mat, Blessed, also on ECM. Once you immerse yourself in their world, the albums have a strange beauty to them underneath a dissonant exterior.

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