McGill Manring Stevens - Addition By Subtraction

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Free Electric Sound
Catalog Number: FES4001
Format: CD
Total Time: 70:20:00

While there have always been trios in music, it seems in the prog world that the number of trios being formed is on the upswing. In the last five years, we have seen a number of "super-trios" form -- the scaled down version of a supergroup. It isn't a surprising phenomenon -- interviewers often ask, "if you could play with anyone, who would it be?" The answer comes in physical form, in this case the trio of Scott McGill/Michael Manring/Vic Stevens. Though this trio also is often a quartet, with keyboardist Jordan Rudess playing on some of the tracks (quintet if you include producer Neil Kernon on loops). McGill (guitar) is a name some will recognize from his own band, Handfarm, as well as his stint with the Echolyn offshoot Finneus Gauge. Michael Manring (bass) is known not only from his other trio project, Attention Deficit, but also for his work with the late Michael Hedges and his own solo career. While I might have thought that Attention Deficit was my first Manring encounter, I've since discovered that I know him from a few samplers from Windham Hill -- yes, the "new age" label. Vic Stevens is, for me, the real unknown element in this gathering. So, I defer to the press release, which says: "Vic Stevens' experience in playing musically complex material reaches back almost to 13 years ago when a mutual friend brought Vic together with guitarist Bon Lozaga of the avant garde rock group Gong [...]." This led to working with Lozaga on two solo projects, plus Gonzilla's Suffer, among other projects on the Lozaga's Lo Lo Records label.

The trio/quartet is the brainchild of McGill and Stevens, who collaborated on an album called Ripe in 1999 and sought to revitalize the fusion genre. In that mission, they recruited Michael Manring. Together this trio has cooked up some very tasty music, some of it very heavy with Manring's deep bass tones. This is heavy as in thick, as in solid, not as in metal. While not a fusion band, there were a few occasions where Rush came to mind, mainly because they often also had a certain thickness to their music. For the same reason, I thought of Djam Karet, a band who also uses similar tone colors. But these are just broad strokes. Looking at the details, you'll see that MMS are quite different. There are also moments where they are gentle, almost fragile, as on "Silé" or "Four Fields." In the former piece, it is McGill's light, steely tones that ruminate over sparse bass and percussion. It is a track that wouldn't seem out of place on a Windham Hill sampler. Quite beautiful. The latter piece is atmospheric, where Manring's bass muses in soliloquy over light guitar tones and gently throbbing percussion that are just heard in the background (this sounding like something of Steve Roach's). The title track is a sometimes muscular and beefy bit of fusion that sounds a bit smug with its often-strutting arrangement. As if to say, "sure we're likable guys, but don't get on our bad side." It is also the track where I most thought of Djam Karet. "Vicodin Shuffle" has a moment of otherworldliness, as if we've stepped onto some alien landscape that words couldn't begin to describe. "Euzkadi" is an impressive solo acoustic guitar piece from McGill, who plucks and strums (simultaneously at times, or so it seems) a very eloquent statement. "In-A-Gadda DaVinci" is a bouncy, driving number...and quite fun. "KVB Liar," the third track in, sounds as if they took a riff out of the Beatles' "She So Heavy," slowed it down a smidgen or two, and then painted different textures over it -- searing guitar bursts from McGill, for example (and mostly). It doesn't follow the same bass pattern exactly, but Manring's note sequence does come around to repeat most of the same notes.

Anyway, MMS can be tightly wound, as on the opener "Zimparty," and also loose as on "We're Not Amused," which follows. Now, by loose I don't mean sloppy, but that the instruments feel as if they are given a little more free reign. I haven't mentioned Rudess much, and it's not that I have anything against him or his playing, but for me he is overshadowed by Messrs McGill, Manring, and Stevens. I'm not sure how many tracks he guests on, though I suspect it is rather few, as the only time I really noticed his presence was on "Conflict Resolution" (and a brief, but beautiful, piano phrase elsewhere). Of the pieces here, this is one of the few that I can see ... well, hear ... being played on more mainstream jazz radio stations. This and "In-A-Gadda DaVinci." This is a slippery slope I've stepped onto, I realize. All I mean is, with the addition of keyboards, these two tracks take on a different aspect from most of the others on the album, an aspect that (US) radio will decide is "safe enough" to share with their listeners. But then again, maybe not ... they've overlooked quite a bit already in favor of music that has no depth. Don't be among them ... check out MMS.

This is, by the way, the first release from Ken (Laser's Edge) Golden's new imprint Free Electric Sound.

Zimparty / We Are Not Amused / KVB Liar / The Execution Of Veit / The Voyage Of St. Brendan ? Abbot Of Clonfert / Sil? / Addition By Subtraction / Vicodin Shuffle / Euzkadi / Conflict Resolution / Purging Mendel's Beasts / In-A-Gadda Davinci / Four Fields / Post Hocto-Proct

Scott McGill - electric and acoustic guitars
Michael Manring - fretless bass and e-bow
Vic Stevens - drums, percussion
Neil Kernon - loop technology


Jordan Rudess - keyboards

Addition By Subtraction (2001)
Controlled By Radar (2002)
What We Do (2006)

Genre: Fusion-Jazz Fusion

Origin US

Added: September 28th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1422
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]