Roger Manins

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Roger Manins
Reuben Bradley (drums)
Mostyn Cole (bass)

New Zealand saxophonist Roger Manins has produced an exceptional piece of work with Trio. Regarded as "an outstandingly gifted musician with a passionate sound, remarkable instrumental ability and total musical integrity", few would disagree that Roger is a blistering force in a new generation of highly talented jazz artists. He plays with a passionate, virtuosic, New York-inspired sensibility forged from a depth of tradition and tempered by an openness to change, and his music speaks with a tenderness and authority that will appeal to generations of jazz lovers.

Reuben Bradley and Mostyn Cole are two of the most exciting players of their generation, and this beautifully transparent recording shows them at their best. Trio is a stunner. Those familiar with Roger's no-holds-barred style are sure to savour every moment.

"Opening with a 20-minute piece of every-changing moods, deft rhythms and sometimes-surreptitious saxophone is a clear statement of intent. It says that these people, the label and the musicians, are serious." - Graham Reid, REAL GROOVE

Read more at Jazz in Elsewhere


Review by Nigel Patterson

Trio is the latest album by Auckland-based Saxophonist/composer Roger Manins. Released on Rattle, the album showcases Manins in a trio setting alongside Wellington musicians Mostyn Cole (double bass) and Reuben Bradley (drums). The album begins with a long number dedicated to the friends and family of Marty White. An atmospheric intro gravitates into a bass feature by Cole before breaking into an ostinato figure which is then joined by Manins and forms the head. Bradley’s drumming is propulsive and he seems equally at home with classic swing feels as he is with more abstract contemporary concepts.

The trio interplay is exceptional; their use of dynamics, timbre and tempo give amazing contour to the somewhat minimal compositions. Everyone is given the space to offer their input on the themes and this in turn lends itself to some stunning moments of creativity and virtuosity. Manins himself has an incredible palette to draw from. Drenched in classic Coltrane/Coleman prose he launches like a futuristic Sonny Rollins into the saxophone effortlessly juxtering twisted abstract lines with dark soulful blues.

Due to the trio being without a chordal player they are able to create a harmonic obscurity which keeps the listener both mystified and intrigued throughout. The fact that all players are deeply anchored with a strong sense of the blues means that the music never falls victim to being cold or over-intellectualised as so often is associated with this idiom. Instead the music breathes with the sense of life, passion and pain as all good jazz should. Cole’s ostinato figure on Silo provides a glorious pad for the band to work their magic. Here Manins is lyrical and soulful, dragging the group into new harmonic territories before returning them to the theme.

Track 5, aptly named Blues Form, sees the group embracing their shared love for the blues. Evoking all the same moods and dark corners as Rollins’ staple Blues Seven the trio reiterates that if you want to play this kind of music then you must never forget where it came from. Manins’ tone is as foggy as any smoke-laden late night bar and Bradley’s initial fluttering brush work gives way to a crisp swing which keeps the track buoyant and light throughout. Cole’s bass again is solid and soulful, providing plenty of conversation for the others to feed off.

The album ends with Filled Rolls. Here Cole reinvents himself as a Jacoesque character who opens the track with a quickfinger electric bass solo. Manins’ reply is in a more familiar tone commanding great lines filled with harmonic and rhythmic intensity before falling into a timbre fuelled duet with Bradley who expertly adjusts his style accordingly and shows some impressive tom and snare work. A great call and response theme ends the track and the album.

Overall a very impressive album that is worthy of repeated listening. Soulful and challenging, well recorded and stylishly presented, Trio is a great addition to the NZ jazz discography.


Review by Graham Reid

Taking the pulse of New Zealand jazz is difficult: just because there are festivals (which rely on imported drawcards) and the annual Tauranga event (a guaranteed core audience because of its youth band competitions, and overseas guests) doesn’t mean the music is healthy. Nor do wine’n’jazz events or vineyard concerts which are more about the occasion than the music.

The uncomfortable reality is that the biggest city in the country hasn’t had an established jazz club for decades. Certainly there are sessions but there’s no designated jazz club. Despite the number of musicians coming out of jazz courses there seems less live jazz than there was in the Eighties when there were no jazz schools.

On record it is another matter: for many years Kiwi Pacific and Ode released jazz albums, and there were labels like Braille in Wellington which -- courtesy of an infusion of grants from the Arts Council, and more recently some of the same people doing the iiii label in the same way -- put out more edgy and experimental music. But once that funding lifeline was cut . . .

Today musicians can easily release their own music, and once more Ode -- now in the hands of Roger Marbeck -- is continuing a small and steady stream of releases and reissues (not all of them interesting it must be said). But Auckland’s Rattle -- the label behind excellent and classy looking contemporary classical albums and Maori music -- has introduced a Rattle Jazz imprint.

The idea is admirable and driven by some business smarts: create well-produced albums in generic artwork (ECM, Blue Note and others sensibly adopted this approach) to create a “collect the series” ethic; release them at regular intervals through a subscription programme (three albums a year for $69); and offer subscriber-only discounts and notification of special events. It is certainly worthy on the evidence of the first two albums.

Irony by keyboard player Kevin Field, drummer Ron Samsom and bassist Olivier Holland was a world class release recorded by Rattle’s award-winning in-house producer Steve Garden. It appeared late last year. The second in the series, out now, is Trio by saxophonist Roger Manins, bassist Moysten Cole and drummer Reuben Bradley -- and it is a more daring affair. Opening an album with a 20 minute piece of ever-changing moods, deft rhythms and sometimes surreptitious saxophone is a clear statement of intent and, as the main story here notes, also stretches the parameters for the new Rattle Jazz imprint.

It says these people -- the label and the musicians -- are serious.

That opener jogs on the spot in places but never for long before one or other of the players picks it up and aims it somewhere else. It takes you on an easy but interesting journey. Manins’ tone sounds languidly Ornette-like in places (Missing Wes) and understatement is driving ethic, although when they take on an angular swing (Blues Form) this becomes more assertive.

Two albums in and Rattle has made an important statement about its ethic and direction. And both are exciting.

By Graham Reid, posted Aug 12, 2010

Visit Graham Reid's Elsewhere site



Roger Manins talks about Trio
My path of growth took me from Waiuku (South Auckland) to Wellington (1990), then Sydney for seven years, New York for two and a half years, then back to Sydney for another four or five years. I returned to NZ mid 2004 for family reasons, shortly after my daughter Millicent came along.

On how the trio formed
I was based in Wellington in 2005, and was looking for musicians to form a trio. I have always love the Saxophone Trio format, and was on the lookout for players who had the potential to meet my expectations in this highly creative format, players with exceptional ears, great sound, highly creative, OPEN, great technique and firmly rooted in Jazz tradition. I also wanted people who I could get along with, who could have a joke while still being totally passionate about the music.

I first heard Mostyn at the Christchurch 2004 Jazz Festival. I sat in on a jam session with him on bass. I can still hear him now; warm sound, great ideas, feel, and ears (I don’t think he knew all the tunes that were called, but he heard the changes pretty quick). I knew then that Mostyn was the bass player I wanted to work with after that. Now I needed a drummer. One night I did a gig at the Lido, and Reuben Bradley was on drums. He played with such energy and commitment that I knew I had my man, so I got them together, and we rehearsed.

We rehearsed often many times a week all year, and did many gigs. We went to Australia twice, and played the Wangeratta international jazz festival. We played and played, and composed, and talked about the music we were making, refining and building empathy. When I play with these guys I feel at home. I feel comfortable and uncomfortable. I feel that I am playing with musicians who are listening, not just to me, but to the music. The music is our master.

On live verses studio
I like real music. I am not opposed to studio recordings, but like albums where the music was actually played in front of an audience. I don’t mind “mistakes” either — well there is no such thing — just what happened, whether you and/or the audience like it or not. I record a lot of concerts, always looking for a great night, and many are, but this one especially.

On the compositions
The music is based on compositions we had been playing for a long time (all mine except Silo by Mostyn). We sometimes play standards, and sometimes free, but on the night this is what we did!

Marty White
This is a dedication to a school friend, a best friend of my brother. He died unexpectedly leaving a young family. I was thinking about him while walking to catch a bus in Wellington, and the bass line of the tune came to me. I ducked into a takeaway and wrote it down, the rest of the tune — it just happened!

Hip Flask
An oldie but a goodie. I recorded this tune on my earlier album, Hip Flask, but it is such fun to play that we still play it in the trio. On the night it was filled with energy, and creativity, and is very different than the original.

Missing Wes
When someone dies, you don’t forget, but your grieving eventually gives way to memories. My father had a good heart and a good sense of humour, and the melody of this tune has a lot of beauty in it.

Blues Form
A simple extended blues form with a lot of room to move. In this version we purposely slow down.

Mostyn got the idea (or as he delicately puts it, ripped off) for this track from a Mike Nock piece. We just play over this beautiful bass riff and let the improvisation go where it goes. By this stage of the night, Mostyn had blisters on his finders as a result of using a borrowed bass, and was swapping fingers for the plucking (or what ever they do). You can hear the pain!

Filled Rolls
Inspired by Joe Lovano - high energy, Free Jazz.

In conclusion
This recording is about interaction, energy, sounds, tension and release. Trio represents where I am coming from as an artist, and where I want to go. This is for discerning listeners who have a taste for a non-traditional creative approach to jazz.



RAT-J-1002 (July, 2010)

Recording: Steve Garden