In Writers Choice 1998 in Coda Magazine, Art Lange lists Lift & Poise among his top-10 choices.
For their third recording together, Karayorgis and Maneri play duo and solo free improvisations, as well as trio improvs with Joe Maneri (Mat's father) on clarinet and John Lockwood on bass. On the album's three Apollo duets, Karayorgis and Maneri create intimate music, out of small, furtive gestures, and they display an uncanny ability to finish each other's thoughts. Through these quiet call-and-response exchanges, they move in quirky degrees to inevitable, if surreal, conclusions. Sometimes, as on the title track, the pianissimo give-and-take blossoms into robust colors. Maneri's violin lines seem to materialize out of thin air and fade away like the Cheshire cat. Karayorgis shapes complex statements with admirable discipline, using dynamics, silence, and density to great effect. The addition of John Lockwood on "Rotation" elicits a percussive volley of notes from piano and violin. And Joe Maneri's ethereal melancholic clarinet on "In This Language" and "Saying Love" produces some of the album's most subtle and ravishing ensemble passages.
Ed Hazell, The Boston Phoenix, May 22, 1998
Mat Maneri has solidified his position as one of the leading lights of the avant-garde wing of improvising violinists.
Lift And Poise marks a recorded reunion of sorts between Maneri and Pandelis Karayorgis, a pianist he first worked with in 1991 and last recorded with in 1993. Like Peterson, Schuller and papa Joe, Karayorgis is an excellent foil for Maneri. Although they were ostensibly playing standards on their duo outing In Time (Leo Lab, 1993), the performances sounded like nothing so much as a long sonata by an accomplished member of the Second Vienna School. Here it's all originals, and the range of performance styles is wider. A number of the tunes are more pointillistic than anything on the earlier album, while on "Aspirates" and the finisher, "Submerged Song," they get more frantic than their usual anxious-but-not-entirely-panicked state. Karayorgis' technique seems surer on this outing (except on his unaccompanied "Twomblying I," where he falters a bit until the wonderful ending). He has a very active imagination and a nice variety of touches and styles. There is an introversion to his playing that complements the meandering wistfulness of Maneri's violin, even when he's playing up-tempo.
The listener is also treated to Joe Maneri's clarinet on a couple of tunes and John Lockwood's bass on three others. It's the most purely "contemporary classical" performance I've heard from Joe. As a result, "Saying Love" seems to me a fine modern day successor to Bartok's "Contrasts," perhaps the most famous 20th Century work for the clarinet-violin-piano grouping. The most traditionally beautiful of the works on Lift And Poise is the touching "Silent Dog" where John Lockwood provides a lovely droning tonal center. Lockwood seems to me a more introspective player than the friskier Schuller, and his contribution to this tune is splendid. There are many, many highlights to this disc, and it's difficult to single out particular moments, because the contiguous sections are often just as nice. The whole endeavor is wonderful. If you're looking for a recording replete with depth, sensitivity and virtuosity, drive, don't run, etc.
Walter Horn, Cadence, Vol. 24, No. 6, June 1998
they're hardly the most prominent advocates of improvised music in America,
they're certainly among the most musically arresting. Lift And Poise is sub-titled
"12 Improvised Movements," and that might suggest the feeling that
arises here of an unfolding extended work. It's sometimes very spare and deliberate,
an on-going process that can consist in sustained violin notes, spare chords
or phrases of just a few notes from the piano, textures gradually accumulating
or bursting into animation, then fading in a shifting design. The sense of
a continuum persists through the pieces that add the senior Maneri or Lockwood,
the music temporarily expanding its voices rather than losing its concentrated
character. The presence of Joe Maneri's clarinet and his emphasis on pitch
highlights this dimension, while Lockwood's bass adds a specific rhythmic
bite, but these are dimensions already present in the duo.
not in the sense of insensibility or the white West Coast jazz, but as "unpathetic"
and "reflective" is a metaphor I find suitable for Lift & Poise.
The pianist Pandelis Karayorgis and the violinist Mat Maneri understand how
to reduce and calculate their music to such an extent, as if they were looking
down at their own actions from the "outside" with a meta-subjective
glance. It is exactly this apparent distance whereas it is clear to
me that this behavior derives from a specific musical technique which
draws the listener into the chamber music-like intimacy. Their two solo pieces
amongst the twelve "private conversations," which evolve into trio-discussions,
twice with the addition of Maneri-papa's Joe clarinet and three times through
the contrabassist John Lockwood, are called Twomblying by Karayorgis and Maneri.
This reference to Cy Twombly and the cross-reference of liner note author
B. Shoemaker to Barnett Newman's conception of beauty and sublimity of "self-evident"
pictures, that do not depend on connotative crutches, hint towards the lucid
poetry of this self-reliant, internally balanced aesthetics. The magic of
this music lies in the fact that being, as Susan Sontag named it, the "language
of the other," it does not crumble into mere noise hieroglyphics. Wittgenstein's'
followers are wrong when they expect a yawning silence beyond the point where
everything able to be said has been said. Beyond language, language-melody
[speech-melody] commences. Music has apparently a different wavelength than
is even more glancing and evasive on Lift & Poise, the second Karayorgis/Mat
Maneri piano/violin duo album. It's made up of seductively halting performances
built around silence and cramped suggestion. What's odd about this work is
the way it can be simultaneously unconventional on the rhythmic, harmonic
and melodic planes while retaining a powerful emotional kick To these ears
it's even more successful than the quintet work. Both Joe and John Lockwood
(on bass) fit easily into the discussion on a couple of tracks.
class of their own, Pandelis Karayorgis and Mat Maneri veer in the direction
of unconventional, non-swinging microtonal free music. Joined in part by bassist
John Lockwood and Mat's father, underrecorded reedist Joe Maneri, the group
engages in twelve totally improvised movements. At times mournful, at others
suspenseful, Lift & Poise is a performance that requires concentrated
listening. The younger Maneri's violin is alternately biting, astringent,
and attractively pensive, as he negotiates thin toned excursions above the
sometimes clamorous piano of partner Karayorgis. Five different combinations
of players (solo, duo, and trio) with relatively short pieces maintain diversity
on what may be the leaders' most accessible album to date. The elder Maneri,
who plays clarinet on two numbers, adds a confident, sometimes wild voice
to an otherwise mostly subdued set. Karayorgis displays avant-style roots
every so often, as his curt punctuations split the quietude. A set to be savored,
On Lift &
Poise, Mat and Karayorgis are joined by Joe Maneri on clarinet for two selections
and John Lockwood plays bass on three others. Mat and Karayorgis also have
one unaccompanied track apiece. Karayorgis has performed in relatively traditional
settings, but he's at his best in this free context. His touch is light but
firm, and he produces a pretty, round timbre, which gives his work a gentle
quality even when he employs intervals and voicings that are jarring when
played by other pianists. Much of Lift & Poise contains relaxed, thoughtful
and sometimes pointillistic collective improvising. Mat, on acoustic violin,
and Karayorgis listen closely to each other, playing in registers that do
not conflict; you can hear and follow them easily and they complement each
other beautifully. Joe's clarinet work certainly adds to the interest here
and, like the others, he's in a mellow mood. [ ... ] Though still a young
guy, Mat's musical association with Joe has given him the equivalent of years
of extra study and experience. He's already a master. Now all he has to do
is wait for the rest of the world to catch up with him.
*** Karayorgis has made several albums on Leo Records with Maneri. Lift & Poise is probably the best of them, with the bonus of Joe Maneri (clarinet on two tracks) and John Lockwood on the strength. There are 12 tracks, divided into solo, duo and trio pieces, exploring a range of sonorities and improvising languages, ranging from the quasi ‑ classical to the free ‑ form and brutalist.
Notes by Bill Shoemaker
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