Matthias Lupri Group: Metalix (2006)
While Same Time Twice (Summit, 2002) found vibraphonist Matthias Lupri emerging as a noteworthy contemporary jazz composer, Transition Sonic (Summit, 2004) represented a significant compositional leap. Lupri fashioned a suite of pieces that, while generally unrelated thematically, ultimately created a longer, more complex narrative whose whole was greater than the sum of its parts. With Metalix Lupri continues honing that process.
This album bears some comparison to Pat Metheny Group's The Way Up (Nonesuch, 2005). Not to say that the two records are stylistically the samethey're not. Nor, to be honest, is Lupri as advanced a writer, possessing the same level of orchestral skill as Metheny and his long-time partner, Lyle Mays. The Way Up centers on some specific motifs that pop up in various ways throughout its 68-minute duration. The sixteen pieces on Metalix, while sonically linked, are more discrete. Still, the four idiosyncratic "Matalix tracks are loosely related and the upbeat "Wondering & Wandering makes an appearance at both ends, giving the recording a distinct arc and sense of emotional completeness.
Like Metheny and Mays, Lupri often favours irregular meters and shifting bar lines, even as he couches them in melodies so engaging that any complexities are only noticeable on deeper analysis. Metheny Group records, while never short on captivating solos, weigh more heavily on the compositional side of the equation. Lupri, on the other hand, makes great use of the orchestral possibilities of his sextet but clearly favours the improvisational side.
On Metalix Lupri features two rising stars of the New York scenesaxophonists Myron Walden and Donny McCaslinalong with three lesser-known players who have worked with Lupri over the past few yearsguitarist Nate Radley, bassist Thomas Kneeland and drummer Jordan Person. Everyone solos with total conviction, and while Radley leans perhaps a tad heavily on an approach that resembles Metheny filtered through Kurt Rosenwinkel, his playing has grown considerably since Transition Sonic and continues to demonstrate real promise.
Lupri, too, continues to grow as an improviser. He blends innate lyricism with a remarkable textural sensibility. He cites Gary Burton as a strong influence, and it's no surprise that his approach also shares some common ground with Metheny, who first cut his teeth in Burton's group in the 1970s. "Glass Stairs, with its cymbal-driven pulse, could easily fit within Burton's ECM ouevre. But Lupri also incorporates electronics into his palette, even more so than on Transition Sonic, and so while the roots of Metalix are clear, so too are its contemporary innovations.
At times powerful, at times delicate, this recording also finds Lupri exploring freer territory. For example, he segues the abstract "Ghost Clusters into the plaintive bass clarinet solo of "Lonely Interlude, and ultimately the dark and blues-informed "Flowers for Mary Jane." Lupri is growing as an artist with a capacity to develop long-form concepts and improvise passionately and intelligently. He continues to learn and grow with each album, and Metalix is unequivocally his most evolved and compelling effort to date.
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Track Listing: Metalix IV Prelude; Wondering & Wandering; (another) Lost Creek; Still; (Still) Lingering; Glass Stairs; Metalix; Metalix Abstract; Dream Nocturne; Ghost Clusters; Lonely Interlude; Flowers for Mary Jane; TD Vibe Intro; Time Design; Wondering & Wandering Reprise; Metalix Deja Vu.
Personnel: Matthias Lupri: vibraphone, electronics; Myron Walden: alto and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet; Donny McCaslin: tenor and soprano saxophones, alto flute; Nate Radley: guitar, electronics; Thomas Kneeland: acoustic bass, electronics; Jordan Person: drums, percussion.