Gerald Cleaver (d), Mat Maneri (viola), Ben Monder (g), Craig Taborn (org & keyb), Reid Anderson (b), Andrew Bishop (cl, ss, ts)
Bar code: 8427328421126
"Adjust" offers a snapshot of some of the most creative and forward thinking musical minds at work in New York today. "Adjust", a challenging program of originals, moves freely across styles and genres, to create a view of improvisational music, as Gerald Cleaver sees it.
"Calling this one of 2001s most surprising , refreshing and simply best releases is not as intrepid an estimation as it may seem, since it was one of three nominees by the Jazz Journalists Association for Recording Debut of their jazz year (April 15, 2001 - April 15, 2002). Evidently splitting his prodigious talents between the gigging/recording and academic worlds, Detroit (and U Michigan)s Gerald Cleaver, whos already made his mark in straight and avant camps, makes a powerful debut with the risk-taking, thrill-seeking Adjust. While associations with Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, and Matthew Shipp seem formidable indeed, I doubt Gerald could possibly surpass the all-star cast of inside-outside players assembled here, under the moniker Veil of Names, for fulfillment of his compositional and interplay-stressing concept.
On Way Truth Life, Mat Maneris clean viola intertwines with Andrew Bishops sweet clarinet over Reid Andersons LaFaro-esque swinging/singing bass line after a gorgeously volume-swelled, arpeggiated, signature intro by guitarist Ben Monder. This turns into a motif-filled, airily grooving feature for Andersons cavernous tone over Monders covert comping. Maneri and Bishop restate the theme before Monder solos cleanly and gracefully over organ twitches provided by Craig Taborn. Listen to Monders precise, yet casual, command of post-bop phraseology in context, not only of his place in this unit, but his place, if you will, in the overall scene- a niche similar to Cleavers one part established in and completely comfortable with more conventional harmonic forms, the other equally seasoned and adept in newer musics most associated with the avant-garde. One can only conclude that he is a player possessing not solely amazing gifts, but unerring judgment and an involved, yet discerning, refinement.
Note Taborns spooky comping technique here-not many other colorists are paying this much attention. That goes double for Cleaver, who here and throughout, somehow talks to everybody in the room while being the host of the party. The drums flirt and associate with every instrument while holding down the nasty groove. Maneri even finds room in the mix to throw in distorted, wah-wah-guitar-like accents - spurring Monder into the stratosphere. The drums step out in front of the piece, stirring it frenetically, polyrhythmically into a vortex, until, it sounds, they literally blow out the board.
Chinese Radio finds Maneri and Bishops clarinet introing the piece as if theyve been playing together for years-Maneri quavering, then splicing in double stops amid hammering against the fingerboard. Anderson enters on electric bass, whereupon badass grooving ensues, punctuated by double-timed drumming sections and unison riffing. Turn up the flow to hear Cleavers explosivity on the kit before Bishop enters to show he can hang Downtown as a clarinetist. Maneri then exhibits his ferocity as a soloist, effortlessly spicing his daunting shred factor with longer, held tones between the notes. It helps these ears greatly that Maneri, known as a microtonal avant-gardist, makes strong reference to inside inflections in his playing before evolving, expanding and stretching into these tweened tonalities. Taborn then snaps us collectively to attention with a thrillingly staccato organ solo over wildly splaying/spraying drums and herky-jerky bass. What A & R guy (likely candidate-possibly Thirsty Ears Mr. Shipp) is going to make his fortune by compelling Taborn to make a groove-heavy electric record for the masses? Additional testimony comes in his bluesy Rhodes feature over spare accompaniment throughout Force of Habit, another of the sets emotional high points.
"Sight" functions as a deep-space intro to Veil, which splices a live-sequenced clarinet/organ whistle/spacey guitar and violin intro into a Headhunter sway, complete with Bishops clarinet voyaging in Maupinesque fashion over the groove, replaced by bassy tenor drones over Jacksonesque looping bass and bootylicious organ. Maneri and Monder even provide counterpoint section work. The Ms then freak out Dixieland style before Cleaver seemingly takes the tune out in machine-like fashion. This actually precedes five more minutes of glorious tail and tale-spinning by organ, guitar, and viola-overflowing your headphones and your headspace with more of the fascinating twists and turns, sonic density and dimension that characterize this effort.
As alluded to in the liner notes, the innovative harmonic and textural masters assembled here lend so fully of their talents to this project to constitute not merely realization of the leaders, or even the collectives, vision for these compositions on paper, but transcend it with a communal spirit of synthesis so deft, so magical, as could be labeled alchemy."
-Phil DiPietro (www.allaboutjazz.com)
"Gerald Cleaver, a sought-after drummer in both straight-ahead and avant-garde circles, debuts as a leader with the highly adventuresome Adjust. The band is called Veil of Names, and its makeup is striking. Guitarist Ben Monder and violist Mat Maneri are paired for the first time; reedman Andrew Bishop completes the front line. Craig Taborn plays organ and keyboards, and bassist Reid Anderson is heard on both upright and electric (another first). Cleaver is on fire behind the drum kit, but he also proves himself an extraordinary composer on this wholly original outing. What catches the ear first is the Maneri/Monder sound, a captivating blend of wobbly microtonality and searing distortion. The clipped yet forceful declamations of the leadoff track, "Hover," make for an enticing prelude to a clamorous bout of free improvisation. Cleaver's thoughts are generally more in tempo, however: Witness the off-kilter, unpredictable grooves of "The Wheat and the Tares" and "Chinese Radio" and the foreboding, almost Zawinul-esque "Force of Habit." Monder's big feature arrives on "Way Truth Life," which, following an unaccompanied guitar setup, winds up through some very surprising meter and tempo changes. Monder blows clean but dizzyingly fast lines over the rhythmic maelstrom, and the tune ends with what literally sounds like a pulled plug. Later on, the bleak and ghostly "Sight" functions as an intro to the funky, densely packed finale, "Veil." The richly varied instrumentation at times you'll hear clarinet, fuzz guitar, and creaking viola all at once, with electric piano or organ underneath gives this music more sonic dimensions than one can even count. Repeated listens are recommended, and pleasure is assured."
David R. Adler -All Music Guide