Arrigo Cappelletti/Andrea Massaria/Nicola Stranieri/Mat Maneri

Leo Records CD LR 597

By Ken Waxman

Persuasively grafting his own style onto the already existing interplay among an Italian trio`s members, New York violist Mat Maneri achieves a gratifying metamorphosis. Reflecting the theories of veteran pianist/essayist and professor of jazz at the Music Conservatory of Venice, Arrigo Cappelletti, who composed or co-wrote five of the nine tracks, the sound on this CD aims to, in his words “create a tension between tempered and non-tempered sound, between a nice phrase and a ‘dirty’ phrase”.

Despite some rough spots the quartet does just that, by using Maneri microtonal extensions to extend other band influences which range from the pianist’s admixture of fado, tango and intense improvisation to guitarist Andrea Massaria’s rock inflections. Massaria co-wrote with Cappelletti a track entitled “Hendrix”, and the band’s strategy is expressed succinctly on it. That tune may climax, appropriately enough with the guitarist’s bravado buzzes and thickened flange, but otherwise the line is treated chromatically and diffidently. Drummer Nicola Stranieri clatters and bangs without a heavy backbeat; Cappelletti uses a jagged irregular line to advance the piece in intervals; and it’s Maneri’s thin, dissonant tone which introduces the piece.

Although he occasionally exposes low-key romanticism in his solos, the pianist like Thelonious Monk is economical in his output: never using one note when none will do. That’s why it’s fascinating to hear Cappelletti’s composition “Free Monk”. Evolutionary not imitative, the tune repeats some common Monk licks, but overall Cappelletti’s playing is more flowery, with repeated high-frequency syncopation and a climax contrasting his note-picking, the violist’s string pumps and the guitarist’s quivering octave jumps.

Tellingly, the band sounds more comfortable intertwining press rolls from the drummer; partially exposed bow pressure from Maneri plus staccato guitar licks and steadying piano chording on Carla Bley’s rumbling “Batterie” then it does on more straightforward European material such as Erik Satie’s “Vexations” and Cappelletti’s “Free Waltz”. The latter shows the pianist layering pitch-sliding variations after the tune is goosed with sophisticated swing from the fiddler. Massaria’s atmospheric showcase “Vox dei, pietre che cantano” in contrast, brings out another side of the band: equal parts swelling guitar pulses, moderated fiddle picks and processional piano chords.

Cohesive in execution, it appears that with Maneri on board the transformation for this group is complete.

Tracks: Anti-clockwise; Hendrix; Dancin’; Batterie; Vexations; Free Monk; From V. to V.; Vox dei, pietre che cantano; Free Waltz.

Personnel: Arrigo Cappelletti: piano; Mat Maneri: viola; Andrea Massaria: guitar; Nicola Stranieri: drums

—For New York City Jazz Record October 2011