Third Reel: s/t (ECM 2314)

Third Reel

Third Reel

Nicolas Masson tenor saxophone, clarinet
Roberto Pianca guitar
Emanuele Maniscalco drums
Recorded February 2012 Auditorio Radiotelevisione svizzera, Lugano
Engineer: Lara Persia
Mixed by Lara Persia and Manfred Eicher
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Third Reel is reedman Nicolas Masson, guitarist Roberto Pianca, and drummer Emanuele Maniscalco. On its surface, their collaboration yields something of a throwback to ECM’s heavier hitters, such as Krakatau. Closer inspection, however, reveals a highly nuanced solar system with intimate knowledge of its own orbits, eclipses, and asteroid belts. The heart of both album and band are the free improvisations peppered throughout the set list. Though selective and brief, they range from elastic twangs to a pollinated solo from Maniscalco, who further unleashes the brushes in a duet with Masson on tenor.


In general, there’s no generality to be had. Atmospheric signatures can be as tender as Jimmy Giuffre (cf. Masson’s clarinet in “Miserere”) or as headlong as going over Niagara in a barrel (“Furious Seasons”). In this respect, titles seem retrospective. Like a Polaroid photograph, by the time their images catch up, the moments they describe have already gone to that nameless land of the past. Only through the magic of the recorded message do their realities seem to occur for the first time.

Some would seem to be more explicit with their references. “Bley,” for one, is a ligament of butterfly-kissed cymbal and bare, melodic gestures, which like the improvisations of its eponymous pianist seeks the lyrical in unexpected places. But then there is “Sparrow,” its dark balladry evoking Paul Bley even more, particularly his early quartet recordings for ECM with John Surman, Bill Frisell, and Paul Motian. The elliptical string games of the nouns (“Orbits” and “Spectrum”) are decidedly verbal, while the verbs (“Freeze” and “Fasten”) are as tangible as ash. They are the flame in the ice, a heart attack of musical proportions. And in the moodier “Eleventh Winter Tale,” brilliance becomes its own animal, stalking the methodical terrain of “Neuer Mond” with a distant prey in its eyes.

In the wake of this listening experience, one might deduce Third Reel’s name to be synonymous with a third dimension, Pianca being the x axis, Masson the y, and Maniscalco the z. Together they plot every audible point in space as if it were a droplet of water on a spider’s web after a storm, only to thrum its anchors until those droplets come raining down in a shower of sparks.

(To hear samples of Third Reel, click here.)

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