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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Mat Maneri and Daniel Levin - The Transcendent Function (Clean Feed, 2015) ****

By Paul Acquaro

I can't believe it was late fall already when I took a trip out to 65Fen in Brooklyn to hear the release show for Transcendental Function. It was an intimate and captivating show, and it was certainly not my intention to let this one go so long without a mention!

The duo has chosen an apt title, borrowing the term from Jungian psychology that references a mediating force between oppositions in one's psyche. Their collaboration is something more than the combination of the 8 strings between them - it's bigger than Mat Maneri's viola, and it's deeper than Daniel Levin's cello. They play both together and against each other, in a conversation that is rife with big ideas, minute details, and humor too.

The album kicks off with 'Contemporary Improvisation' - a 15-minute wander through the musical woods. They chance upon rocky trails, smooth woods roads, surprising vistas and burbling streams, each step an unpredictable advance. The track begins with double stops from both instruments, a shifting of tones, both agreeing and clashing. At any given time, either one may go off in a new direction, setting a new course. However, they never disagree on the pace or where they are on the map.

This same sense of adventure permeates the other tracks as well. There is a sense of adventure and a quiet tumultuousness that keep the players and listeners baited for the next unexpected moment or shift. The Transcendent Function is a recording that is both demanding and rewarding in kind. It's an avant-garde conversation between two complimentary musicians who trust each other's directions and instincts.