Though the material was written by either Opsvik or Sacks, this is a complete group effort. The quartet exchanges acoustic ideas that are rife with expectancy, taking things into freer territories covering many shapes and contours, all of which are interesting examples of modern composition.
Intricately balanced, like performers on a tightrope, each musician pulls and pushes the limits of their instruments and each other. The throbbing bass-line of ‘Ha!” supports Maneri and Sacks’ eccentric solos. On the atmospheric “As We Know It,” the brooding bowed strings of Opsvik and Maneri along with Sacks’ delicate ivory touches are carried by the gentle taps of Motian’s drums. Or take the free swinging “Playing With Blocks,” cooked under a controlled, heated groove. And that’s just the first three cuts.
Mark F. Turner, All About Jazz, Aug. 4th, 2007.
Putting viola player Mat Maneri with veteran drummer Paul Motian was a stroke of genius. They share an obsession for pernickety, ornate gesturing and their concept of time transforms pulse into endlessly malleable modules. The foresight to bring the two men together came from New York – based pianist Jacob Sacks and bass player Eivind Opsvik, and the resulting album is a joint release by two labels – an enterprising way for labels to cover costs in the future perhaps? The disc opens with “Ha!”, a good-natured composition from which Maneri’s microtonal viola locates unexpectedly weighty insides. “Simple Song” has the flow of a nursery rhyme and Maneri, again, flips the tune on to its dark side; a joyful solo from Opsvik restores its intrinsic optimism. Sacks is an impressive pianist – he relishes tossing glassy clusters against the flow, but the harmonic pattern he reciterates on “Evening Kites” reveals his homely and genteel side. An enjoyable record, an important one even
Philip Clark, WIRE, December, 2007.
. . . Masterful tunesmiths with a penchant for plangent melodies, their writing enriches the session with a harmonically assured palette. The tunes ripple with emotional resonance, conveyed with both empathetic finesse and vivacious zeal.
With startling brio, the album opens with the slashing angularity and fervid tenacity of “Ha!,” then radically switches gears for the austere “As We Know It,” a pensive neo-classical ballad. Vacillating between mellifluous statements, terse explorations and agitated rhythms, the quartet shifts gracefully from one mood to the next.
Navigating labyrinthine structures studded with jagged angles and jittery rhythms, they enthusiastically tackle the modulating rhythmic cadences of the jaunty “Playing With Blocks” and spiky “Bridge and Tunnel” with tart expressionism.
Invoking a Monkish streak, Sacks’ buoyant “Funny Shoes” features Motian at his finest, interjecting spry percussive commentary that belies his age. Another Sacks original, “Simple Song,” knits a mercurial melody to a relaxed pulse that borrows Monk’s quirky sensibility without resorting to imitation.
Demonstrating proficiency beyond his years, Opsvik’s graceful “Evening Kites” radiates with euphonious luster, showcasing Maneri’s supple viola as a model of knowing restraint. The pastoral tenderness of “Twelve Days” and the sunny trio feature, “Savile Row” close the album on a poetic note. . .
Troy Collins, All About Jazz, August 18th, 2007.
. . . The tracks run short, a series of vignettes that capture a moment—then move on. Opsvik’s pieces are moody and opaque: “As We Know It” creates tone poetry through a drawn-out violin melody; “Evening Kites” has a rock ‘n’ roll chord progression with a few unexpected bytes of dissonance (like discovering a pebble in your sandwich, the hard way); “Bridge and Tunnel” recalls a Jackson Pollock painting, with splashes of spattered color, irrationally logical; “Twelve Days” has a chorale texture evoking the ennui of an Ozu film, suggesting a long-lost ago with no specific historical reference (the improvisational equivalent of a “New Lang Syne”); while “Savile Row” embodies the middle-of-the-afternoon vibe of the classic Bill Evans Trio Village Vanguard sessions.
Sacks’ compositions are separate but equally compelling: “Ha!” is angular and abrupt; “Playing with Blocks” implies more than it states, shifting focus between musical personalities in a way that belies and undermines the tradition round-robin of solos. “Funny Shoes” melds the quirky sensibility of Monk’s music to user-friendly harmonies and showcases Motian’s less-is-more minimalism, while “Simple Song” is folksy, drawing on elements of swing, ragtime, blues and bop, cutting a broad swath through musical North Americana. . .
Tom Greenland, All About Jazz, December 15th, 2007.