THE GUARDIAN    January 19, 2007


Michael Mantler, Review

Despite his substantial body of work, Austrian composer and trumpeter Michael Mantler tends to get overshadowed. There's his former wife, Carla Bley, whose early career he did much to foster. He sets words by literary figures (Auster, Beckett, Pinter) who also cast long shadows. And Mantler hires starry performers - Marianne Faithfull, Jack Bruce, the Balanescu Quartet, conductor Peter Rundel - whose names are more of a "draw" than his own.

However, you don't attract collaborators of that calibre without being bloody good. Review, a 75-minute retrospective (1968-2005), is a startling reminder of just how inventive Mantler is, working confidently across contemporary composition, jazz, improv and progressive rock. Twenty, for example, features guitarist Mike Stern, Pink Floyd's drummer Nick Mason and the LSO strings. The Sinking Spell has Robert Wyatt singing Edward Gorey's words. Mantler deploys his raw materials with poetic intensity, but without artifice or pretension. This collection is too brilliant to ignore.

- John L Walters