White Austrian-born trumpeter Michael Mantler (1943) relocated to New York in 1964 and formed the Jazz Composer's Orchestra Association (JCOA) to promote compositions for jazz orchestra.
Mantler and pianist Carla Bley formed a large star-studded jazz orchestra,
the Jazz Composer's Orchestra, that debuted
with Communication (april 1965) and
Jazz Composer's Orchestra (june 1968), obtaining immense
The former featured
Steve Lacy on soprano saxophone,
Jimmy Lyons on alto saxophone,
Robin Kenyatta on alto saxophone,
Ken McIntyre on alto saxophone,
Bob Carducci on tenor saxophone,
Fred Pirtle on baritone saxophone,
Mike Mantler on trumpet,
Ray Codrington on trumpet,
Roswell Rudd on trombone,
Paul Bley on piano,
Steve Swallow on bass,
Kent Carter on bass
Barry Altschul on drums,
and included Mantler's
Day - Communications No 4 and Communications No 5.
The latter featured
six soloists (Don Cherry on cornet, Gato Barbieri on tenor saxophone,
Larry Coryell on guitar, Roswell Rudd on trombone, Pharoah Sanders on tenor
saxophone, Cecil Taylor on piano),
piano (Carla Bley),
seven saxophones (including Steve Lacy, Jimmy Lyons, Lew Tabackin),
seven brass instruments,
five basses (Steve Swallow, Charlie Haden, Reggie Workman, Eddie Gomez, Ron Carter),
and two drummers (Andrew Cyrille and Beaver Harris),
and included Mantler's
Preview - Communications No.11.
In between those albums, Mike Mantler on trumpet, Steve Lacy on soprano saxophone, Carla Bley on piano and two bassists recorded Jazz Realities (january 1966), including Mantler's Communication No 7.
Mantler featured on all subsequent Carla Bley recordings until 1983.
But Mantler's soul was European to the core.
Michael Mantler - Carla Bley (august 1975) contained his 13 for Piano and Two Orchestras, a terrifying expressionist work.
He fully realized his ambitions in the sphere of highbrow progressive chamber jazz with No Answer (february 1973), a cycle of lieder on Samuel Beckett texts sung by rock vocalist Jack Bruce, accompanied by an organ-trumpet-bass trio (Carla Bley, Don Cherry, Jack Bruce), although the cerebral, disjointed music sounded closer in spirit to the Canterbury school of progressive rock.
The proximity to that school increased on The Hapless Child (july 1975), with words by Edward Gorey, featuring rock vocalist Robert Wyatt, Carla Bley on piano and synthesizer, Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Jack DeJohnette. This time the brooding lieder were even more in the hands of the vocalist, one of the greatest of all times, with the musicians following his cues and filling the gaps.
The rock element further increased on the next cycle, Silence (february 1976), based on the Harold Pinter play and scored for a trio of piano/organ (Bley), guitar (Chris Spedding) and bass (Ron McClure) fronted by Kevin Coyne and Wyatt (and Bley herself).
These albums of erudite, ponderous chamber jazz songs set the standard for the rest of his career.
Mantler abandoned the human voice and finally played in person on the eight-movement suite Movies (march 1977) in a quintet with Bley (on both acoustic and electronic keyboards), guitarist Larry Coryell, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Tony Williams. The line-up shifted the emphasis of the sound towards
orthodox fusion jazz.
More Movies (march 1980) replaced Coryell with Philip Catherine and added tenor saxophonist Gary Windo.
Something There (june 1982) returned to his classical obsession, scoring another suite for jazz-rock quintet (guitarist Mike Stern, Bley on piano, Swallow and Pink Floyd's drummer Nick Mason) and a string orchestra.
The duets with Don Preston on synthesizer, Alien (july 1985), were de facto another orchestral album, a sort of concerto for trumpet and (electronic) orchestra, because Mantler used the synthesizer to add color to the solo instrument's meditations.
Mantler returned to the song cycle with Many Have No Speech (december 1987), for rock vocalists such as Jack Bruce, Robert Wyatt and Marianne Faithfull backed by a symphony orchestra, but he fragmented too much the material.
Having relocated to Denmark, Mantler greatly reduced his frequency of recordings, preferring to focus on the format of classical music.
Even more ambitious was the 29-minute suite Folly Seeing All This on Folly Seeing All This (july 1992), scored for the Balanescu String Quartet and a jazz quintet (trumpet, guitar, alto flute, piano, vibraphone).
Another cycle of lieder, Cerco Un Paese Innocente (january 1994), featured vocalist Mona Larsen backed by a chamber ensemble (trumpet, guitar, piano and a string quartet) and a big band with synthesizer.
The opera The School of Languages (august 1996) featured eight vocalists (including rock vocalists Robert Wyatt, Jack Bruce, John Greaves and Mantler's daughter Karen) backed by a ten-piece ensemble and a string orchestra.
One Symphony on Songs And One Symphony (november 1998) was his
largest orchestral composition yet.
Wyatt dominated again the song cycle Hide And Seek (september 2000) for an eleven-piece ensemble.
and the Nouvelle Cuisine Big Band conducted by Christoph Cech
re-recorded the JCOA classic as The Jazz Composer's Orchestra Update (september 2013).
Comment C'est/How It Is (july 2016) documents ten compositions by Michael Mantler (trumpet) with the Max Brand Ensemble, a lineup conducted by Richard Graf and comprising of bass, two clarinets, cello, two pianos, flute, French horn, oboe, tuba, vibraphone, viola, violin and the vocalist Himiko Paganotti.
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