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Financial Times review – Lucian Ban/Mat Maneri, Deep Ford (9 May, 2017)

Here is a review of this gig, that was at the Vortex on 9 May 2017. We put it up here, because it might get stuck, for some, behind a paywall!


Lucian Ban & Mat Maneri, Vortex Jazz Club, London —

Stirring emotions, luxurious textures The duo’s music is steeped in modernist influences, from classical music to jazz 

by: Mike Hobart

A wheezy viola scamper announced the evening, swiftly answered by a scatter of low-register piano. Textures thickened, the pulse firmed up, and the duo’s understated entry blossomed into a performance that had the heft and impact of a larger band.

Lucian Ban and Mat Maneri compress folkloric bacchanals, atonal mysteries and the unmistakable cadences of the blues into a singular aesthetic. Pianist Ban grew up in Transylvania, and his percussive full-pedal approach at times conjured forest-dwellers’ revels. But this is only one component of a compositional palette that is steeped in modernist influences, from classical music to jazz.

Maneri, here playing amplified viola, complements this approach with sweeping lines and plangent melodies, richly voiced chords and subtle plunks. In this performance, the last date of a European tour, their close phrasing, complementary tones and rapport produced stirring emotions as well as luxurious textures.

The performance began with two new pieces, “Black Salt”, a homage to the blues with a delicately decorated theme, and “Transylvanian Dance”, which lived up to its title and tore at the heart. A cover of drummer Paul Motian’s sedate and sombre “Fantasm” followed, its sparse abstract lines developed into a dense, closely argued duet. George Enescu’s “Prelude 1 for Orchestral Suite” evoked optimism and doubt with a lovely tune, rippling piano arpeggios and ebb-and-flow improv.

The evening’s highlight was a cover of Sun Ra’s “A Call for All Demons”. The piece began as a whimsical ballad, but soon Maneri was playing plaintive minor-key lines and slurred country blues, fizzing, fleet-fingered abstractions and aggressive harmonised stabs. And all the while, Ban’s two-note motif maintained a steady militaristic pulse. The finale, “Monastery”, referenced the duo’s Transylvania Concert album. The dancey fusion theme had a modal bridge and, delivered at full force, was equally up to snuff.

The evening’s second half presented reeds, drums and keyboards trio Deep Ford. Their well-worked minimalism offered floaty unison lines over chattering percussion and an emphasis on silence and space. But moods varied, and with pianist Benoît Delbecq and drummer Sylvain Darrifourcq adding electronics to saxophonist Robin Fincker’s sprays of notes and stabs, the set never failed to grip. The highlight was “Tranquil”, a furore of fractured drum breaks that was anything but.

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