Reviews - JOE MORRIS + MAT MANERI [soul search] (AUM014)

"This disc is an astonishing improvised duet that manifests a remarkable synergy. Morris and Maneri can sound like a gypsy duo, or an old folk-blues recording, or any number of things - without a hint of pastiche or mere imitation, but with just a whiff of sonic reminiscence. This disc is, from beginning to end, full of commanding improvisations. Not to be missed." – Robert Spencer

"There's a search going on here alright. It's for tomorrow's music. This is, in other words, the sound of living, of asking questions too big to answer, of getting at it piece-by- painstaking piece. Where they've been is where we're certain to go, sooner or later." – John Chacona

JAZZIZ – Top Critics Picks 2001

"There are breath-taking moments on Soul Search when the two players find their way into a little musical world that seems utterly undiscovered." – Duck Baker

"Two minds transmitting incomprehensibly beautiful language encoded and emitted by hands wholly consumed with their respective instruments yet so harmoniously in tune with one another translates to what I initially never thought would be one of my favorite records of the year." – Armen Svadjian

"By the disc's end you're left with the impression that Morris and Maneri aren't so much searching for their souls as baring them for all to hear. I believe Soul Search has set a new benchmark in jazz for the free duo exchange, and it seems likely that said distinction won't be lost any time soon." – Mike Trouchon

Duo Live/Soul Search CD Review
Aum HiQ Brooklyn, New York
June 24, 2000
by Bill Furlonger

Having an opportunity to see Joe Morris and Mat Maneri is a treat, but even more so when the venue is Aum HiQ-the residence of Aum Fidelity's label head Steven Joerg-and the event is a CD release party for the duo in question. In a handsome brownstone building in Brooklyn's scenic Park Slope neighborhood, the show felt more like the small friendly gathering it was than a night out at a jazz club. The intimate feel was heightened by the room in which the concert was held-a vintage Arts and Crafts room with paneled walls, light fixtures and detailing.

The two musicians took their seats, quickly glanced at one another and hurled into an improvisation in perfect accord. What startled me was that two musicians could achieve such a oneness of sound so quickly without looking at each other. Sure, I've seen this happen with musicians intently watching each other's movements and signaling each other with nods, but throughout the whole performance, each player barely glanced at the other. These were two guys very much on the same page.

Secondly, one always reads about Morris playing without any effects on his guitar. True. Maybe he adjusted the volume of his amp once and twisted a nob on his guitar, but the live performance was proof that it's technique that makes his sound unique. That and the fact that his lightning fast guitar runs often make him sound like two guitarists at once.

Although Mat Maneri makes sparing use of an effects pedal with his electric violin, his facility and creativity also creates a multiplicity of sound. Whether plucking or bowing notes or chords, smacking the violin with his hand or anything with his bow (watch out front-row!), repetition or routine was not an issue.

Instances of their mutual comparability continued to abound. Mat Maneri's pizzicato plinking often echoed the guitarist's clipped plucking; the violinist's blunt bow strokes mirrored Morris' terse strumming. But it wasn't all about unity. It was, after all, a duo performance. The two were as likely to pile noisy discord on one another.

Throughout the show, whether rubbing against each other's grain or navigating a confluent union, Morris and Maneri, improvising at the highest level, had not only articulated something deep and fresh, but had successfully communicated that innovation to the audience. After an hour of challenging music, there was not one skeptical or confused look in the audience, only a joyfully renewed optimism.

After the show, the listeners dreamily ascended to the rooftop garden. The talk was of BBQ's, geography (the view of NY was spectacular) and the cutoff year for hip-hop (1985...ha!). Nothing was said about the performance. There were no words yet to describe it.

Good news...the new CD Soul Search perfectly captures all of the elements of the live show. Clearly, these two players are so into the music that it's irrelevant whether there's a microphone or an audience present: the result is the same.

From the low-key, almost ambient soundscapes of "eyes or gaze" to the frenetic dueling on "forwards and sideways," the intensity of the material steers the listener towards the mind set of the musicians. The eerie, bracing articulation of sound-space gives the listener the feeling of being in the same room. It's all part of getting lost in the sound.

Towards the end of "versicolor," a bluesy abstraction reminiscent of Out To Lunch-era Eric Dolphy, Maneri creates a walking bass line on the violin, which Morris picks up on, adding a complimentary guitar line. This seemingly scored denouement, along with the astonishing unity of many of the opening passages add an impression of planned compositions-an achievement of only the most seasoned improvisers.

In the end, the title Soul Search is appropriate. In the course of recording this CD, it seems as if each player has looked not only into his own mind and spirit to express this complex music, but into the other player's as well. Joe Morris and Mat Maneri's Soul Search is without a doubt destined for many musicians, music fans and critics top recordings of this year.