Sunday, September 27, 2015

Michael Mantler - 1978 - Movies

Michael Mantler 

01. Movie One
02. Movie Two
03. Movie Three
04. Movie Four
05. Movie Five
06. Movie Six
07. Movie Seven
08. Movie Eight

- Steve Swallow / bass
- Tony Williams / drums
- Larry Coryell / guitar
- Carla Bley / piano, synthesizer, tenor saxophone
- Michael Mantler / trumpet

Mantler's 'Movies' is probably the most intelligently done fusion, if we must call it that, since 'Mysterious Traveller' .... 'Movies' presents eight thematically linked pieces, each of which has a distinct mood, a particular emotional focus (hence the title?). While Bley plays with sentiment, some times burlesquing it and sometimes expressing it directly, Mantler's music breathes a different and cooler air. The eight compositions are consistently interesting and personal - Mantler's harmonies are his own - and the ensemble plays beautifully. Of the instrumentalists, Mantler himself is perhaps the least widely known, but it is his steely trumpet playing that dominates the ensemble sound and establishes the emotional climate of the music. To my knowledge he has never before put his own playing so far forward. I hope he does it again. Williams is typically excellent - it's a pleasure to hear him recording regularly again - and Coryell and Swallow could not be better. Carla Bley plays some unison lines on tenor, but her most significant contribution is her wise and subtle use of synthesizer to enlarge the music's space and give it greater dimension and reach. This is intense, stellar music. Miss it at your own risk, particularly if you're into fusion: this is some of the most interesting work being done in the idiom. Certainly it is superior to the more commercial releases around.


If the eight segments which make up "Movies" are intended to paint pictures in the mind's eye, they succeed admirably ... Mantler performs with a bright, hard tone, like a more careful Freddie Hubbard, while the focus of the themes restrains Coryell from across-the-fretboard calisthenics ... The whole group comes on like a more mature and musicianly Mahavishnu Orchestra: in place of speed for speed's sake antics is a sense that Mantler has distilled his thoughts down to their finest essence. The result is an album of shining freshness.


 I first became aware of Michael Mantler's music through a friend who told me about this album he had called "The Hapless Child And Other Inscrutible Stories". He went on to tell me that Wyatt, Rypdal and DeJohnette were on that record. Well I just about fell over myself trying to find a copy. Unfortunately it is out of print. Well "Movies" might be the best next thing. Tony Williams on drums, Larry Coryell on guitar and Carla Bley on keyboards and sax is nothing to sneeze at. Then add Steve Swallow on bass and Michael Mantler on trumpet and we have a great band.
"Movie One" has such an enjoyable horn / guitar soundscape with light drums. Coryell does start to come to the fore after 1 1/2 minutes. Nice. "Movie Two" has keyboards and cymbals leading the way to start then it kicks in before a minute. Check out the guitar ! Trumpet leads 2 minutes in then the guitar is back as they trade off. "Movie Three" has this relaxed trumpet and sound then the keys and drums come in at 1 1/2 minutes as it gets fuller. It's still relaxed though. The trumpet blasts after 2 1/2 minutes then it settles back again. "Movie Four" is led by drums early then the horns come and go. This is intricate and complex. Guitar 2 minutes in then experimental sounds arrive 3 1/2 minutes in. Great track.

"Movie Five" is led by horns early with some nice prominant bass too. Guitar after 1 1/2 minutes starts to lead then the horns are back out front a minute later to the end. "Movie Six" has the horns blasting with background synths and odd metered drumming. Piano too. Great sound ! "Movie Seven" sees the guitar and drums kicking some ass ! Horns before a minute. Amazing stuff. Intense and intricate guitar lines late. "Movie Eight" has melancholic horns with piano. Drums then guitar after 2 minutes join in. Piano and bass only 3 1/2 minutes in. Horns and piano then lead as the guitar comes in late.

An excellent album from this Austrian and his next record "More Movies" might even be better.

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