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Music Review

North by Northwest by Joe Manis

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Label: SteepleChase/ LookOut

Year: 2013

Duration: 62 minutes

1 of 1 Busy, energetic readings of classic ballads from the Great American Songbook, three originals (and Radiohead too.)
Busy, energetic readings of classic ballads from the Great American Songbook, three originals (and Radiohead too.)

So what have we got here with this powerhouse trio then? Joe Manis blows his tenor and overdubs with electric bass. George Colligan  applies himself to Hammond B- 3 organ, piano, Fender Rhodes and Wulitzer, Kevin Congelton is on drums.

There’s an oblique reading of Vernon Duke’s  I Can’t Get Started, and a more recognisable Irving Berlin’s Cheek to Cheek.  Three of Manis’s own numbers feature, including the opener Suspect. Not that you really notice the seam between his stuff and the covers, in all the dizzy drive and propulsion.

What is normally a wistful ballad, How High the Moon takes its bearings here from a Coltrane tune called Satellite, originally based on the self-same ballad. With the exception of  a version of Radiohead’s Pyramid Song, everything works within that tight knot of conjoined organ, drum and sax.  Pyramid Song is different, a Flamenco-tinged brooding bolero, with Manis playing the repetitive theme over a ringing, almost Reich-like piano motif.  

Manis and Congelton have played together for years. They played just one gig with Colligan in Portland, Oregon, four days before North by Northwest, which was recorded in two days in September 2012. In all its late-Bebop excitement, you may miss the woody, rumbly warmth of the upright bass. It would be interesting to know why Manis decided to to make the record without it. Other than that, it’s a fine album.

Paddy Kehoe

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