Albrecht Maurer/Lucian Ban/Mat Maneri

Fantasm
Nemu Records Nemu 015

By Ken Waxman

German violinist Albrecht Maurer, Romanian pianist Lucian Ban and American violist Mat Maneri have created a CD of shadowy subtlety that redefines the idea of a string trio. The three unearth a distinguishing blend, which takes as much from Eastern European memories, early music and microtonal inferences as jazz or notated music. Ban, now New York-based, and Maneri have explored similar concepts on previous

CDs but Fantasm’s sound experiments are given addedresonance from Cologne-based Maurer, a reformed fusion musician.

It’s probably no surprise that the consummate definition of what this trio can achieve takes place during the violinist’s two-part suite “Aura” .Sequentially dark and light, the 11-plus-minute composition begins with Ban reconstituting tremolo strums so that they suggest an accordion’s shuddering bellows, as the fiddlers’ spiccato lines reference folkloric airs. Bridged by scratching pizzicato from one string player, the second movement is more overtly impressionistic, especially when it reaches a crescendo mixing dynamic piano patterns plus aviary flanges from the strings. Most compelling is how near-Asiatic motifs, referencing Eastern Europe’s Ottoman history, are craftily interpolated into the narrative. The trio’s compositions reflect their individualism. Maneri’s “Last Steps” is the most melancholic, with

spindly string jabs meeting piano patterns for expressive tonal dislocation. Ban’s five compositionsshare a more upbeat attitude: besides a methodicalexposition, they encompass discreet Romanian folklore twists on “Irreverence”; locked-groove jazz pulsing on“El Corazon”; and deepening swing constructed from comprehensive harmonies on “Pina”. The one composition that appears to have arrived intact fromthe 19th century romantic tradition is the title track, which was actually composed by the late drummer Paul Motian, an unhyphenated jazz master. It allows both violinist and violist to vibrate tender textures in contrast with Ban’s focused key-crunching until all three relax into a polyphonic rapprochement. Playing as a duo or in larger ensembles, Maneriand Ban have proven that they’re excellent interpretersof each other’s ideas. Maurer’s sympathetic partnership makes this trio expansion even more imposing

Tracks: Irreverence; Fantasm; Aura; Pina; Elysium Planitia; El Corazon; Twin Rivers; Last Steps; OK Now

Personnel: Albrecht Maurer: violin; Mat Maneri: viola; Lucian Ban: piano

—For The New York City Jazz Record March 2015