Thursday, April 10, 2014

Harry Manx "Om Suite Ohm" (4*)

A glance at the titles in the discography will suggest a certain preoccupation that’s reflected in descriptions of Manx as a Mysticssippi blues man though it probably wouldn’t spring to mind as you run through the African groove that drives Further Shore (co-written with African inspired Byron Bay based colleague Yeshe) and started life as an instrumental before Manx came up with the words. Take a listen to the words, however, and you’re right in that philosophical mode though it takes a while for the Indian tonalities Clayton Doley’s Hammond B3 drives things along.

The enhanced instrumentation continues through Way Out Back’s dreamy didjeridoo-driven excursion through the ancient Australian landscape, with lyrics spoken by Gunjurra Waitairie as Manx’s ethereal slide evokes the vastness of the Nullarbor and that B3 fills in underneath.

His take on Coltrane’s A Love Supreme emphasises the jazzman’s connection to Indian music (the main theme to the piece is taken from a traditional South Indian folk tune, or dhun). While Manx doesn’t attempt the whole four-part suite, using the mantra in Acknowledgement as the basis for his exploration of the piece works well as a slide exercise that ties the blues tradition to classical Indian ragas.

That exploration that continues through The Blues Dharma and All Fall Down as Manx lets the Eastern influences gradually rise to predominance. The same atmosphere continues through Saya, the atmospheric The Moon Rose Up and Carry My Tears, written for a friend who had passed on, reprised from his  from  his 2011 Strictly Whatever collaboration with Kevin Breit.

Reuben's Train is another return to something from earlier in his career. It appeared on Manx’s debut album (Dog My Cat) while Stay Tuned winds things up in a suitably subtle, understated manner.

There'a nothing particularly new hereabouts, no revelations or jaw-dropping moments but a few tweaks and quiet additions to Manx's sonic palette (the use of violins and other members of the string family is a first) add subtle light and shade to Manx's quiet virtuosity. While it won't jump out of the speakers and demand attention there's plenty on offer for the discerning listener, and repeated listens will deliver rewards.

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