For Sounding Tears, his first release under his own name (not as co-leader or collaborator) in 12 years, Maneri has enlisted legendary British saxophonist Evan Parker, one of European avant-garde’s leading voices for the past four decades, alongside his long-standing collaborator, Romanian expat, pianist Lucian Ban.
The improvisations conjured by these improvisers bespeak a music of the new millennium – tender and lyrical while also angular, gritty and suspenseful. Reflecting on Sounding Tears Maneri says: “Music begins before music. As an improviser the first note I play sets in motion the whole world. As a trio, where does musical intimacy come from? Is it improvisation, is it chamber music? Is it jazz? The music on this album, the experience, empathy and the shared history that Evan and Lucian bring to Sounding Tears, is our answer to those questions.”
Maneri and Ban have been working together for close to a decade spanning a number of different projects. They met while working on Ban and bassist John Hebert’s Enesco Re-Imagined (Sunnyside, 2009). On one piece played a memorable duo, so remarkable that they didn’t hesitate to begin touring as a duo. This touring relationship ultimately resulted in their acclaimed recording, Transylvanian Concert (ECM, 2013). It was at the Bucharest release show for Transylvanian Concert that they invited Parker to be a special guest. The music was elevated to a new plane. The three played a few more times together before heading to Tedesco Studios in New Jersey in 2016 to record what would become Sounding Tears.
The music on the album showcases a side of the saxophonist’s playing not often heard on record – a more introverted, crooked way of phrasing, tenderly enveloped in Maneri and Ban’s sonic universe. Over the course of eight free improvisations and two written melodies, this trio showcases a distinct language; a language built on equality and listening with no grandstanding or hierarchical principles at play.
A notable influence on this album’s concept was the seminal 1995 ECM album Time Will Tell by Paul Bley, Evan Parker and Barre Phillips. This album meant an immeasurable amount to both Maneri and Ban. A sense of space invoked throughout and the collective phrasing were influential to both musicians. Bley was also one of the first people to give Joe Maneri and Mat Maneri the recognition they so deserved. Bley recommended them to ECM Records’ Manfred Eicher, with whom they went on to record with Barre Phillips and many others in a series of albums which are still cherished for their inventiveness.
Maneri sums up the spirit of Sounding Tears. “It’s like Lester Young mixed with something insane; rooted in the past of an alternate universe which may have never existed.” No other words can describe the dualities that this record holds within itself – the music is both cutting-edge and remarkably progressive while also being firmly rooted in tradition, song, and improvisational tactics which recall 20th century modern classical music in addition to jazz. The sound of Sounding Tears is the sound of three master musicians playing with integrity and heart, listening as much as asserting, letting silence dictate as much as sonic density. It’s a treat and a delight to hear a recontextualized Evan Parker sitting patiently, enmeshing himself in a codified universe that Maneri and Ban have been crafting for several years.