Sometimes a performance just hits a solid stride and stays there. Such is the case for Live at Scholes from Jonathan Goldberger (guitar), Mat Maneri (viola), Simon Jermyn (bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums). Recorded almost exactly two years ago, this 36-minute set finds a comfortable ground between the exploration of free improvisation and the more relaxed flow of a jam session.
Goldberger, not unlike Mary Halvorson and Brandon Seabrook, is a new generation of guitarist who eschews labels and categories, mixing styles at will. Jermyn, originally from Ireland, has been quietly contributing to the New York creative music scene for years. Maneri and Cleaver, of course, need no introduction as their respective discographies are wide and deep.
The album begins in a rather unstructured fashion with each musician heading in a different direction. This experimentation is subtle, however, and solidifies with a pointed bass line from Jermyn around which Cleaver builds cymbal-heavy patterns of his own. Goldberger and Maneri provide dual leads, in a complementary rather than competitive fashion. Each switches between producing pronounced notes or themes and more atmospheric components. There is some degree of traditional soloing, especially when the band settles into a groove. Outside excursions occur, especially during the middle of the track with Maneri leaning toward discordance over Goldberger’s speed picking and disjointed chording, but they do not disrupt the continuity of the set. As the recording closes, the quartet moves back into quieter territory with Goldberger and Maneri playing slow, textural motifs.
Likely due to the source material for the recording, there is a rawness and immediacy to Live at Scholes. But the album is never truly harsh and instead represents a thick, heady mix that works equally well for passive and active listening.
This recording is on the Untamed side-label of Out Of Your Head Records, featuring rare live, home studio, and archival recordings. All proceeds from sales of these albums go straight to the artists.