Michael Mantler: More Movies (WATT/10)

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Michael Mantler
More Movies

Michael Mantler trumpet
Philip Catherine guitar
Gary Windo tenor saxophone
Carla Bley piano, organ
Steve Swallow bass
D. Sharpe drums
Recorded and mixed August 1979 through March 1980 at Grog Kill Studio, Willow, New York
Engineers: Michael Mantler and Tom Mark
Produced by Carla Bley

This companion to 1978’s Movies isn’t so much a sequel as a direct continuation of Michael Mantler’s wonderful predecessor after a two-year intermission. In addition to screening further sonic films, it includes three short subjects under overt titles. “Movie Nine” is the first of the former, one of seven in scattered order on the program, and introduces a palette similar to the first album. Mantler is back on trumpet, while Carla Bley rejoins on piano (and organ), and Steve Swallow on bass. Drummer Tony Williams is replaced here by D. Sharpe, and guitarist Larry Coryell by his onetime acoustic touring partner Philip Catherine. Yet what separates an already expansive soundtrack without images is the addition of Gary Windo on tenor saxophone. His soulful reed work is a strong counterpart to the lively precision of the rhythm section and to Catherine’s own committed readings. Throughout numbers Ten through Fifteen, we encounter a range of directorial styles, from the smoldering noir of “Movie Eleven” and rich exposition of “Movie Fourteen” to the spacious ride of “Movie Twelve.”

“The Sinking Spell” is the first of the explicitly themed tracks, and the mere inclusion of these implicatory words does much to nuance our interpretation of the scenes at hand. Swallow and Sharpe crush it right out of the gate, launching a sophisticated groove made all the tenser by Bley’s pianism. “Will We Meet Tonight?” is another full wave that casts Windo in a bluesy leading role. “The Doubtful Guest” brings magical realism to the fore and opens the frame for Catherine’s blistering method acting. Common to all of these is an intensity of build-up and narrative consummation.

Despite the success of Movies, this follow-up was apparently a flop at the proverbial box office. All I can say is that it’s one of my favorites from Mantler and worthy of repeat viewings.

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