There's nothing quite like an aptly named record. With one word, Maneri sets out his project. Sustain is an extended, slow, drawn-out suite for bass, keyboards and drums, along with his own violin and guest Joe McPhee's soprano saxophone.
Structurally, the album is reminiscent of another Thirsty Ear title, Matthew Shipp's Pastoral Composure. But where Shipp goes for brief, elegiac melodies, Maneri narrows it down to the note, single sounds wavering in the air. It takes five tracks and 30 minutes, halfway into the disc, tracks for the full band to kick in. The restraint is as remarkable as the release.
Maneri plays beautifully here, avoiding his shortcomings of overdrive and ramble. Only once does he hit his Marshall stack sound, and then does so effectively.
The startling thing here is his interplay with saxophonist Joe McPhee. The two intermingle light bowing and blowing, creating inseparable eddies of sound. Craig Taiborn, who has put his mark on some of the best Thirsty Ear titles, moves between piano and electric keys, tastefully complimenting the front line. And for his part, drummer Gerald Cleaver puts a steady pulse to the sparse surroundings.
With more than a dozen releases in the Shipp-directed Blue Series, Thirsty Ear has become the strongest documenter of the downtown jazz. The releases have an identity, a look and a sound that harkens back to the glory days of Atlantic and Impulse!, when labels weren't just recording but encouraging artists to find their sounds and push their limits. As with some previous releases, one wonders if Maneri would have made Sustain without the encouragement to realize the great albums within him.
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