Far more than a pretty face finds alto saxophonist Sarah Manning walking the musical tightrope between the more free form and the more accessible with the result a perfect balance of artistic flavor and texture without ever pushing the listener over the edge with self indulgence. One key element of Dandelion Clock that seems to leap out and ironically a stated goal of Manning's is the more working band approach of a jazz day long since gone. Today we have individual stars fronting quartets with even most fans hard pressed to name all participants. Manning has the prolific talents of Art Hirahara on piano along with a seasoned bassist in Linda Oh and drummer Kyle Struve who is far more than a human metronome here as he owns the pocket.
Having often used the term sonic exploratory to describe a musician that is attempting to reach deep. Sarah Manning performs far more than a sonic exploratory she digs deep and goes well past the heart and shares a piece of her musical soul, her sonic DNA and we are the better for it. Manning's sonic is edgy, Sonny Stitt meets David Sanborn for that unique hybrid that seems to be sneaking into the straight ahead scene for a more throwback lyrical sound yet somehow accessible from a more contemporary perspective. "The Peacocks" opens the release and is a perfect example of a controlled lyrical sonic fury. This Jimmy Rowles classic has never sounded more alive than in Manning's most capable hands. The only other cover on this release which ironically closes Dandelion Clock is the Michele LeGrand tune "Windmills Of Your Mind." Manning is fearless on the LeGrand tune placing her own indelible stamp on a classic. The remaining tunes are all Manning compositions which should have a great many heads turning. "Marble" is an odd metered gem punctuated with shifting harmonics and a solo from Hirahara that seems to bring all participants back to the slightly more abstract sense of melody that permeates this release. There are a great many young players that hang out in odd meter or subscribe to the speed is king philosophy as there seems to be that concern of becoming the next big thing as opposed to developing an artistic voice. Manning is an edgy and hard charging post bop player. There is also a keen sense of melody and Manning is clearly hearing lyrical lines differently than most players. "Crossing Waiting" is another incredibly original tune staring off like something out of the Charlie Parker songbook only to be magically transformed into a tune with plenty of gas in the tank as pianist Hirahara turns in a performance reminiscent of Herbie Hancock on steroids. The subtle finesse of bassist Oh and drummer Struve give up something new with each subsequent spin of the disc.
Dandelion Clock does more than push the sonic envelope, it goes out registered mail. Far more of a sonic adventure than any Posi-Tune release I have heard thus far it is as engaging and captivating a release as you will find in their catalog. Accessible yet slightly more free form than most releases there is an intoxicating organic presentation that allows the freedom and sonic pulse to develop naturally thus making this one of the finer discs you may have missed over the past two years.
Tracks: The Peacocks; Marble; Habersham Street; I Tell Time By The Dandelion Clock; Crossing Waiting; The Owls (Are On The March); Through The Keyhole; Phoenix Song; The Windmills Of Your Mind.
Personnel: Sarah Manning: alto saxophonist; Art Hirahara: piano; Linda Oh: bass; Kyle Struve.
Sarah Manning via You Tube.