Lossing / Maneri / Dresser – Metal Rat (CF 064)
Much has been said about brevity by men who were anything but. Now, art benefits from aesthetic and compositional purity—no unnecessary lines, no superfluous words, no ostentatious displays of skill—but it is usually a byproduct of a brilliant work, not the sole purpose. Pianist Russ Lossing, violist Mat Maneri and bassist Mark Dresser manage dexterously to combine deliberateness and improvisation in Metal Rat, an album of established collaboration. In the liner notes, Lossing reveals that the album was recorded in less than four hours, with “a real sense of urgency.” Only two compositions are included on the album—“Turn” and “Is Thick With”—and the rest is free jazz in its purest form. Pure, intentional and urgent.
Metal Rat is a prime example of what other musicians, both more- and less-talented, often lose sight of—succinctness. Each track works because duration becomes another deliberate element in the tight little landscape of each song, not an arbitrary manifestation of the more mundane forces of convenience or ego. “Damp(ness)” is less than two minutes long, but it is sophisticated and intense, with unexpected bursts of noise that melt into smooth waves of elasticity. When Metal Rat deviates from said structure, it loses focus. “Ch’ien,” for example, is fourteen minutes long. What is charming at six minutes is tedious at ten and at fourteen is quite unnecessary.
The compositions are well carried out and the improvisational element is thoughtful and passionate. Each track is an experience, brief but meaningful and compose a ten-track record that is small but, somewhat paradoxically, larger than life.