GRAMOPHONE   March 2009


Michael Mantler

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A famously reticent performer, Michael Mantler is also a musician easy to underestimate, yet the sheer unpredictability of his output (want to hear Jack Bruce and Robert Wyatt singing Beckett? Then Mantler's your man) is there for the discovering, while the quality of his collaborations will be evident from those featured on this disc. 'Concertos' consists of seven movements - lasting between five and 12 minutes - that between them offer a conspectus of the idiom, distinctive yet elusive in its subtle melding of modal and chromatic harmony, which he has been evolving over the past quarter-century.

As presented, the sequence gets underway with Mantler's elegant yet often elegiac soloing in Trumpet, proceeding to the invigorating gestures of Bjarne Roupé in Guitar and Bob Rockwell's typically bracing dexterity in Saxophone, then to the endlessly resourceful mallet-work of Pedro Carneiro in Marimba Vibe and Roswell Rudd's soulful yet deadpan playing in Trombone; taking in the alternately cascading and terse figuration of Majella Stockhausen in Piano, before ending with Nick Mason's understated kit-work in Percussion. Such a lineup of individual and intensive showcases could so easily have cancelled itself out over the hour-long recital, thus it is a tribute to the contribution of Roland Kluttig's Neue Musik Berlin that there is never a lack of expressive context. Detailed yet wide-ranging sound and stylish booklet presentation as expected from ECM, and a disc that can be cordially recommended to all those who, drawn to the diversity of Mantler's catalogue, were unsure where to start.

- Richard Whitehouse