Music

Matthias Lupri Group: Metalix

Stunning vibist, ambitious composer, high-grade quintet in a meditative, almost mystical, extended work.


Matthias Lupri Group

Metalix

Label: Summit
US Release Date: 2006-06-14
UK Release Date: 2006-03-14
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After an electronically generated 90-second prelude -- processing the already strange enough sound of vibes played with a violin bow -- some ethereal, mystically associated vibes play in accompaniment to a guitar solo from Nate Radley, and then to Thomson Kneeland on acoustic bass. Electronic atmospherics modestly contribute to the sound, behind a saxophone solo.

The complexities of "(Another) Lost Creek" are in the cross-rhythms of Jordan Perlson's drumming, and then in simplicity. Myron Walden's alto has a cool school tone, but is squeezed into some quiet, strained, upper-register work, before lyrical and echoey sounds emerge from the guitar.

Lupri's light and pedalled-echoey vibes perform the well-named "Still", before first the bassist and then the drummer join in, followed by a soprano, presumably played by Walden, which sounds like a cross between Chet Baker and a flute. And then a flute itself takes over, courtesy of Danny McCaslin. Perlson's work on drums is as ethereal as the vibes solo, the flute, and the soprano, on this strong melody.

Lupri is a Gary Burton pupil, and his successor. In "Glass Stairs", Walden's alto entry is the start of a tour-de-force. Radley likewise solos in a way which opens the music out. Lupri, bass, and drums complete a rapid, quiet performance which is conventionally wonderful, before the darker colours of the title track come over, very sensitive on the edge of dissonance. "Metalix Abstract" is Radley with much echo, with a segue into "Dream Nocturne", where the vibes have a warm echo, harmonised tenor and soprano. The titles can't be faulted, or the writing for tenor and soprano, or Kneeland's playing as he continually provides warmth and swing. Much of the music may be written out, but the interpretative challenge maintains freshness. McCaslin ends a mellow light-toned tenor solo, setting up an entry for the vibes, and Perlson's playing is graceful and pulsing.

"Ghost Clusters"? Loud and wailing bowed bass, various horn or flute and electronic devices applied sparely for more awed atmosphere. Bass clarinet and vibes are lovely on "Lonely Interlude", in a continuous section of the music which becomes "Flowers for Mary Jane", with Walden shifting to alto, quiet but impassioned. And all the time the tread of the bass, and sometimes the shimmer of Lupri's vibes, rolls along, stirring into the rapid playing of an echoey prelude to "Time Design", which the energetic drumming suggests might enter a lot louder than turns out to be the case. There is plainly a current fashion for impassioned saxophone playing where the intensity is enhanced by maintaining a low volume level. The music is certainly starting on its way home now, Radley soling with an oblique sound and the rhythm...

Well, the rhythm begins by racing, but then there's a mostly subtle boogaloo, though with a forceful backbeat behind Lupri's somehow increasingly aerial vibes. This set of complex time-signatures throughout is plainly heading home with a vengeance: the drummer is hotly forceful and the saxophones are playing figures against each other as if also waiting for, what? Lupri, and perhaps the racing conclusion. Are we there now? "Wondering and Wandering Reprise" suggests not quite. The more the vibes ring out, the lighter the two saxophones become, and we are in a reprise of the earlier music, but now building to a false ending.

The ending with electronics and echoes, vibes and drums and bass, is almost a token item. There it is, and it's over, the suite is complete. And it's hardly unlikely that you'll feel unsure of what it all amounts to. I'm left with the suspicion that, at the very least, some marvellous music has happened, and it wouldn't be uncomfortable to experience it again.

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