GRG67: The Thing (Rattle)

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Dark Bright
GRG67: The Thing (Rattle)

The jazz tutors in the School of Music at the University of Auckland are among the best musicians in the country, and the most respected and well connected.

Take saxophonist Roger Manins for example. A simple search at Elsewhere sees him on albums with Mike Nock, Kevin Field, Ron Samsom, his own trio (with Mostyn Cole and Reuben Bradley), Phil Broadhurst, in bop or jazz orchestra settings . . .

He's played on more than 30 albums, is the Creative Director of Auckland's Creative Jazz Club (CJC) and been on three, maybe more, jazz albums of the year.

His long association with the Rattle label continues with this widescreen album where the bouncy spirit of Oliver Lake and Ornette Coleman – specifically Coleman's Virgin Beauty album with guest Jerry Garcia -- inform the left-field swing of Kungfu Alto with guitarist Michael Howell as the harmolodic foil, or sneaking down the path opened out by Paul Desmond in the original Dave Brubeck Quartet (the melodically dextrous and enticingly lovely opener 10.15).

The album – recorded at the Kenneth Myers Centre which is attached to Auckland uni – is part of Manins doctorate and five of the eight tracks were recorded live. That might account for the breadth of what is here, from those pieces already mentioned through the sideways cracking funk and desperately shouted interpolations on Crab Empathy (more akin to some quirky Braille releases in the Eighties) to the appropriately titled and delicately realised Psalm at the end.

This however is also a quartet – with Tristan Deck on drums and electric bassist Mostyn Cole alongside Manins and Howell – where each is a first among equals.

the_noteOn Dark Bright it is Deck who plays a key role in creating the gentle less-is-more brushes, cymbal washes and punctuations beneath Howell's fluid, warm and spare lines, and on the tile track Cole creates a wonderfully alternative but supportive listening experience behind the frontline of Manins and Howell.

As always with Rattle, this is a beautifully presented CD and inside the gatefold sleeve there is reproduced a message left by someone who is clearly not a fan of this kind of creative stuff.

It's never nice to be so abruptly dismissive or close down a conversation by saying this: But that person is wrong.

And this album – and presumably Manins' doctorate – is very, very right.

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Chris - Apr 7, 2018

Will have to get myself a copy of this. I'm a fan of Roger Manins, but i came across Michael Howell on Youtube not that long ago and was seriously, seriously impressed. It was like, this guy has got 'it'. So good to see him hook up with Manins. Cheers.

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