Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Goodbye, Joe Maneri

And the improvised music world has lost another genius who sought to turn time into nothing: Mr. Joe Maneri passed away yesterday at the age of 82. I'm sure many of his many students and acolytes will be able to eulogize him in far greater detail than I ever could. My exposure to his music was minimal, but what I heard touched me deeply. Some years back I listened obsessively to a 1995 Leo disc called Get Ready to Receive Yourself, which teamed Joe with his son Mat, bassist John Lockwood and drummer Randy Peterson. Obviously I've heard all the hoopla re: Maneri's allegiance to microtonal music, but I'm not schooled enough to have any clear idea of what that means. To me, what Maneri's music sounded like was SLIDING. The quartet on the aforementioned CD played like it was swaying underwater. I don't think I've ever heard jazz sound more fluid or--and this term isn't meant in any derogatory sense--lazy.

And for all the saxists whose sounds have been compared to crying, Maneri was the one who sounded most like he was sobbing when he played. His lines were like hoarse, slow-motion laments. It was a devastating soundworld that his band created, abetted in no small part by Peterson, one of the world's strangest and most revelatory drummers, a player who looks and sounds like he's wobbling on a tightrope as he plays--the perfect complement to the leader's woozy time-sense.

When I think of Joe Maneri, I think of the one time I saw him live at Tonic, his singularly roly-poly body seated at the piano and him babbling in those weird tongues that he used to favor. (I remember running into a co-worker there who played bebop sax in his spare time. He had heard that Maneri was a legend, but the show itself left him quite disgusted. I think he walked out.) But that visual image couldn't compare to my sonic memory. I haven't listened to Joe Maneri in a few years, but I can hear him in my head plain as day, sobbing and sliding along, serenading a weird muse that spoke to no one but him.

P.S. Maneri's own site is woefully out of date, so try this detailed interview by JazzWeekly's Fred Jung if you're curious to learn more. [Update: There's also a lengthy Jazz Times piece by Harvey Pekar. Haven't had a chance to dig in, but I'm psyched to do so. Pekar used Maneri's music in the film version of American Splendor.]


Anonymous said...

'in full cry' from the joe maneri quartett has some of the most brutal tunes ever recorded. listen to 'motherless child' really loud - you will be blown away!

BG said...

I think it's safe to say Joe and Mat were the greatest father and son collaboration jazz has ever known -- a homegrown sound language evolved through traditions, disciplines and all the rich emotions and experience of Life, unique unto itself. In every performance, Joe was about Love, a church of the expressive self transcending "complexity" through improvisation and deep rapport, whether it be public or private. Mat carries this true legacy on in his blood and persona, as do a small handful of other close collaborators in whom this complex style has been entrusted/initiated over the many years as a means of communion and homage to a palette of playing which expresses such personal, human, "American" qualities in melody, rhythm, dynamics and pacing, quite unlike anything else out there. We are blessed to be alive, to have heard this, to understand this, to carry it forward...

Matt Lavelle said...

Sliding is actually a great analogy,.and the way Joe heard time,.coupled with peterson,.it really is a perfect unique sound and SWING world.
and indeed,.Joe was one of the great vocal sounds in jazz history..
My tribute to him comes wed on brillantcorners,.Chris Rich's blog from Boston.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts are with the Maneri family. I am so sad to hear of Joe's death. Joe and family - you are part of my childhood - and the music we made together - well - it is ever a part of me and still exhibits itself in my present musical life. Joe - you are missed!!
Danielle DeGruttola