Mat Maneri

“Violist Mat Maneri has a sound all his own: with his mahogany tone and muscular low register, he slithers from note to note like a satiated snake.” – Chicago Reader
Over the course of a twenty-five year career, Mat Maneri has defined the voice of the viola and violin in jazz and improvised music. Born in Brooklyn in 1969, Maneri has established an international reputation as one of the most original and compelling artists of his generation, praised for his high degree of individualism, a distinctive marriage of jazz and microtonal music, and his work with 20th century icons of improvised music.

As a young musician, Maneri was influenced by the sounds of his childhood home. His father, microtonal composer and saxophone innovator Joe Maneri, was on faculty at the New England Conservatory, and colleagues like Ran Blake and Gunther Schuller were frequent visitors. In 1990, Mat co-founded the legendary Joe Maneri Quartet with his father, drummer Randy Peterson and bassists Ed Schuller and John Lockwood. The quartet’s recordings for ECM Records, HatOLOGY and Leo Records were widely acknowledged by critics and fellow musicians as among the most important developments in 20th century improvised music.

Maneri’s 1999 solo debut on ECM Records marked his emergence as a musician with a singular, uncompromised voice. Pianist Matt Shipp called him “one of the five greatest improvisers on the planet”, reflecting a growing consensus of Maneri as a central figure in American creative music. Since then, the long list of musicians with whom he has worked includes icons such as Cecil Taylor, Paul Bley, Paul Motian and William Parker, as well as influential 21st century bandleaders such as Joe Morris, Vijay Iyer, Matthew Shipp, Marilyn CrispellJoelle LeandreKris DavisTim Berne and Craig Taborn.

As a composer and bandleader, Maneri takes to heart the ideology of Gunther Schuller’s ‘Third Stream’, wearing multiple stylistic influences on his sleeve while shaping them into something wholly other, and wholly his own. He cites his father, whose own studies with Joseph Schmidt placed him in the lineage of Alban Berg and Arnold Schoenberg, as a strong example: “To my father, European art music and American vernacular music were equally ‘serious’. To me, the blues are as essential as Milton Babbitt.” Maneri’s small ensemble compositions have been extensively documented on recordings under his own name on HatOLOGY, Aum Fidelity, Leo Records and Thirsty Ear.

Maneri began violin studies at the age of five, adding the viola 15 years later. Although he didn’t follow the classical music path mapped out for him in his early years, his work as an improviser remains deeply informed by classical music. His principal teacher and mentor, Juilliard Quartet co-founder Robert Koff, contributed a vast knowledge of baroque violin music and chamber music that continues to shape Maneri’s approach to solo and ensemble improvisation: Maneri blends jazz phrasing with chamber music dynamics, and an acute awareness of independent voice in counterpoint. Maneri says, “Koff showed me how to be a great listener and a player in a small group context. Being able to hold onto your own voice while responding to the others’ – that’s central to all chamber music, whether it’s composed or improvised.”

Maneri lives in Brooklyn NY. He is on the instrumental faculty at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City, and records, tours, and presents workshops internationally.

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