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Chamber Jazz Album Reviews


November 2016

4.5 stars


“…Now based in California, composer and multi-reed whiz Jacam Manricks describes himself as "Sri Lankan- Portuguese Australian-born." In other words he's the virtual embodiment of a world citizen. When it comes to his music, Manricks is unafraid to draw from pretty much any source for inspiration. The wryly-titled Chamber Jazz comprises eight Manricks originals plus a cover of Miles Davis' "Deception" and an adaptation of Jean Sibelius' "En Etsi Valtaa Loistoa" (I Seek No Power or Glory). Despite the repeated references to classical music (the Sibelius tune and another one titled "Beethoven"), there's not much on Chamber Jazz that one would actually consider Chamber Jazz. Thanks in no small part to the perpetually swinging, forward-leaning energy of his rhythm section, Manricks' music comes across as raw, sinewy and soulful modern jazz with brains. Sure, there's a tune titled "ECMish" (a descriptor this author is guilty of over-using), but if you listen it's apparent that the reference to ECM here is purely tongue-in-cheek. 

It's doubly ironic that Manricks recorded a very impressive album with a chamber orchestra titled Labyrinth (Manricks Music Records, 2009), to which the title of the present album might've actually applied. There are some multi-reed overdubs, and a smattering of Fender Rhodes here and there, but the music on Chamber Jazz is, for the most part, much more stripped down and obviously part of the jazz continuum than that on Labyrinth. A few tracks here, nevertheless, hearken back to the music on that previous recording. "Mood Swing" is a complex, multi-sectioned piece framed by Ari Hoenig's somewhat martial-sounding drums and a twisting, arching chord progression which provides Manricks ample room to improvise like a madman on his primary axe: the alto saxophone. Propelled by an odd-metered ostinato, "Beethoven" has a dark urgency and somewhat more of an ECM-like feel than the pretty, pastoral "ECMish." By contrast, "Forbidden Fruit" is all accents played in tutti by the quartet. Then, bassist Gianluca Renzi digs deep for a brief solo before Hoenig gets the green light to go all funky under the leader's burning alto. Kevin Hays lays out completely on a few tracks. "Wandina" is a complicated math-jazz piece; a bit like the stuff Steve Lehman is doing with his trio these days. Both "Cry" and "Cloud Nine" are a driving medium-up tunes with complicated accent-ridden heads that make the most of the chemistry between Hoenig and Manricks. 

The more conventional pieces on Chamber Jazz are no less refreshing. The title of "Thread" might refer to the way that Manricks weaves the melody through the composition's rhythmic nuances. It's an up-tempo piece blessed by Hoenig's ceaselessly imaginative drumming and a characteristically lush solo by Hays. The Sibelius piece is presented as an affecting ballad with a hymnic, down-home feel; a bit like somethingKeith Jarrett might've done back in the 1970s. "Deception," another piece presented sans piano gets a pointillistic read, but swings like mad from start to finish…” Dave Wayne 11/19/16


February 2017


“…Australian saxophonist Jacám Manricks provides his own definition of classi- cal/jazz hybridity with Chamber Jazz (Self Release; 71:17 HHH1/2), a taut, neatly executed album that advances the notion of jazz as a chamber music. The quartet assembled here—Manricks on various woodwinds, Ari Hoenig on drums, Ginaluca Renzi on bass and Kevin Hays on keyboards—stresses musical communication over flashes of virtuosity. Meticulous interactions between Manricks’ soprano saxophone and Hoenig’s snare drum on “Cloud Nine” are marvels of rhythmic interplay…” Brian Zimmerman


December 2016

“…Alto saxophonist Jacam Manricks teams up with Kevin Hays/p, Ari Hoenig/dr and Gianluca Renzi/b for an exciting album of post bop originals. He’s got a rich and warm tone on the alto, and can make it work on muscular and angular pieces such as the complex “Thread” or the sweet and soft “En Esti “Valtaa Loistoa” where he floats over Hays’ piano. The crystalline “ECMish” features his soprano over Hoenig’s skating cymbals and Hays’ romantic chords while the intertwining “Wandina” has him swirling around Renzi’s bass with a dervish of a melody. No matter the setting, his rich sound keeps you enthralled on each moment…”

Review by George Harris for Jazz Weekly December 2016


October 2016


“…Saxophonist/composer Jacám Manricks’ new release titled Chamber Jazz features elements of jazz fused with classical music and their many styles. The idea behind the recording originated from the many influences Manricks heard in the music of Miles Davis, Beethoven, Milton Nascimento, Jean Sibelius, Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman. The challenges he faced when bringing his musical visions to fruition were deftly met by a group of highly qualified musicians. Among those assisting Manricks, (who plays alto, soprano and tenor saxophones, flute, alto flute and clarinet) is none other than the highly respected drummer Ari Hoenig. Kevin Hays plays piano and Fender Rhodes and Gianluca Renzi is on acoustic bass.


Manricks’ compositional acuity as well as his performances speak volumes about the dedication and attention given to each song. He wrote all of the songs with the exception of Miles Davis’ “Deception,” and “En Etsi Valtaa Loistoa” which was written by Jean Sibelius. His writing and playing are a conglomeration of different styles from the opening notes of “Thread” to the comptemplative conclusion presented in “Cloud Nine.” “Beethoven” is a contrafact on the great composer’s Moonlight Sonata  while “Wandana” was inspired by a lesser-known 20th century classical composer named Sigfrid Karg-Elert.


Overall, each musician in this excellent quartet is at the top of their game and the rhythmic, harmonic and melodic variations as well as a beautiful contrapuntal approach they take makes this recording a must hear…”



November 18 2016

Jacam Manricks’ ‘Chamber Jazz’ seeks unity in differences


“…In the wrong hands, abstract jazz could easily go sideways, presenting itself as a jumble of noise, not music. Luckily, the Oct. 28, 2016 recording of Chamber Jazz rests in the righteous hands of bandleader Jacám Manricks.


The Australia-born/New York-based Portuguese/Sri Lankan artist is behind the 10 wonderfully composed, thought-provoking, and feel-good meanderings of a small jazz group featuring himself on all manner of sax, flute, and clarinet, acoustic bassist Gianluca Renzi, drummer Ari Hoenig, and keyboardist Kevin Hays.


In the Chamber Jazz EPK, Manricks aptly described his new album: “What might sound jarring, discordant to one person, can sound beautiful, or elegant to another. There is this space in music for people to experience their own thoughts, to feel emotion, to explore their imaginations and what that music means to them.”


Such musical freedom is indeed rife with unpredictable, welcome surprises, enlivening a palpable landscape of intentional sonic pictures. Manricks composed eight of the instrumentals, borrowing two others from Miles Davis (“Deception”) and Jean Sibelius (“En Etsi Valtaa Loistoa [Julvisa; I Seek No Power Or Glory]”).


The addition of classical instrumentation and themes — his family is steeped in the tradition — with the heartbeat of experi[;mental jazz this side of hard- and post-bop allows such freedoms to contain a pleasant sense of escapism without going too far off the deep end.


“My writing and playing has always been a conglomeration of different styles, particularly drawing from my jazz and classical background, and more recently different folk music,” Manricks said in a press release from Two For The Show Media. “This project, in a way, is a culmination of that.”


Manricks goes further creatively on his brass and reeds than almost any other abstract artist on the canvas, hitting on the temporal quality of thought and emotion for a smoke and mirrors effect. “Cry” is exceptional in this regard. He makes his sax weep and wail on Hoenig’s steadily inducing beats — calling to mind a native American call to arms — without ever becoming tedious, dreary, or worse, self-masturbatory.


The offset pace of the instrumentals lends well to the unpredictability, essential to keeping listeners reeled in. Manricks and his crew refuse to follow a customary beat, shaking it up when it begins to get too terribly safe. “Cloud Nine” lives on that shaky rhthm, at once unpredictably abstract and deliciously groove-worthy.


An unfortu]nate offshoot of abstract jazz is a tendency for mediocre artists to go rogue, often or shock value, losing mainstream listeners by the boatload — the antithesis of true avant-garde anything.


Somehow, Manricks and his small chamber jazz group are able to produce beautifully melodic music in unpredictable measures over an engaging, rhythmic beat that takes different directions and half-steps mid-stream, lest the listener get too comfortable in any one style.


These guys get it.

On the opening, brilliant “Thread,” Manricks draws on every stylistic color under the sun, arcing from a tiny hint of Latin to straight-ahead, to mesmerizing avant-garde tendencies in the smooth jazz shifts — without ever losing the listener’s interest, or curiosity for what’s next.


This is what every avant-garde jazz artist dreams of accomplishing on a good day, and one Manricks seems to do effortlessly with every tasteful drop of his notes.


“Jazz has always been a hybrid art form with different subgenres evolving out of other musical styles,” Manricks explained in his liner notes. “For my generation, one of the most influential styles affecting the development of jazz, other than its own various subgenres, is 20th century classical music. In addition to these styles, as well as international folk and traditional music, the material on this album draws from earlier classical music traditions, such as those found in the Romantic and Classical periods.”


Jacám Manricks’ Chamber Jazz features artistry, originality, daring inventiveness, and a willingness to embrace the virtues of the melodic, the harmonic, and the modest extremes between the two for a perfect middle ground of thoughtful, emotional music for both avant-garde and regular jazz…” Carol Banks Weber



October 2016


A nice straight-ahead modern session from saxophonist Jacam Manricks, pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Gianluca Renzi and drummer Ari Hoenig.  There’s a bright sunshine lightness to this music, even when the quartet raises their voice or, conversely, latches onto a groove when Hays switches over to Fender Rhodes.  Plenty of nice soloing, but it’s how the quartet meshes when the soloing subsides that shows this album at its best.  Particularly appealing is how casual Manricks sounds on saxophone, even though the richness of his lyrical approach indicates the presence of a substantive focus.  Good stuff.

Review by By Dave Sumner This is Jazz Today-BIRDISTHEWORM.COM


Sea Of Tranquility

December 2016


There's no doubt that the new album from saxophone playing flutist and clarinet man Jacam Manricks lives up to its name, Chamber Jazz. And yet you can't quite help but get the feel that the title is also a little ironic – and intentionally so, what with the multitude of other styles and approaches he and his assembled cast live out. With piano and fender rhodes playing Kevin Hays, acoustic bass man Gianluca Renzi and dextrous drummer Arj Hoenig making up the 'backing band' it's little surprise that what the quartet produce is sumptuously performed, tightly executed jazz of the highest order. Manricks afforded the time to spread out through the solid and at times flashy base set out for him.


With "Thread" roaming and melodic, the overall feel is of tight looseness, where each member has a clearly defined role and yet the scope to push, pull and expand their parts within a framework. For proof just listen to the punchy percussion Hoenig is allowed to display as the remaining trio riff off each other in mighty fashion. That the next cut, a reimagining of "En Etsi Valtaa Loistoa (Julvisa) I Seek No Power Or Glory", composed by Jean Sibelius, is so refined and restrained, creates a mighty contrast. And yet it's no less assured or memorable, the dancing piano and sax poignant and heartfelt, although this time it's maybe Hays' piano that proves most memorable.


The only other non-original on display is the Miles Davis number "Deception", Manricks scaling up and down, staccato bursts quite captivating, the strong feel of a band pulling in the same direction in evidence once more, but again, not in a manner that makes them feel constrained in any way. From the other originals, "Forbidden Fruit" sounds every bit as brooding as its name suggests, while "Cloud Nine" adds a nodding wink of smoothness that maybe isn't seen anywhere else. Finally the wryly titled (and not wholly accurate) "ECMish" draws you in and seduces you in the most hypnotic way imaginable.


With a name like Chamber Jazz you could be forgiven for thinking that what Jacam Manricks has created here is a little one dimensional. However while classical themes and approaches appear throughout, this is a diverse, varied collection and one that's all the better for it…” 4 stars, Steven Reid

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