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Labyrinth Reviews


“…A composer beyond the confines of genre perception…”
“…evocative…meditative…beautifully contoured …”
“…An impressive collection of pieces from New York based Australian born multi-instrumentalist/professor Jacam Manricks, Labyrinth creeps into your ears with a stealthy sketch, half written, half improvised…”
“…Ben Monder drop-shadows the leaders mellifluous alto as bassist Thomas Morgan tip toes and Jacob Sacks scurries the breadth of the keys…”
“…Gorgeously poised saxophone heralds the martial snare of Tyshawn Sorey, expanding to full chamber palette. The orchestral scope of Manricks’ writing is revealed in this Schoenberg-influenced piece…”
“…Monder gets to crank and Manricks throws some grit into the alto’s upper register…”
“…Manricks’ meditative , concentrated thought process distill in “Rothko”, a twelve tone experiement featuring Monder’s cavernously reverberant guitar set against pointillistic piano…”
“…Greg Osby and Steve Coleman’s mercurial concepts and deployment of ostinatos underpinning challenging melody lines are hinted at…”
“…‘March and Combat’ (is) an ambitious, sectioned piece inspired by Ravel and Gil Evans…”


“…(Jacám Manricks) has become a pre-eminent performer in his trade…”
“…Manricks probes the dynamic relationship between the intimacy of bop and the concert hall furnaces of string-based symphonies. These two components are coupled beautifully through the floating sensations and flowery plumage that drive the track ‘Micro-Gravity’ …”
“…Labyrinth has the sculpted finery of atmospheric jazz, the spiraling staircases of eclectic jazz, and the tangential angles of avant motifs…”
“…Labyrinth is a piece of work that does for jazz what author Walt Whitman did for existentialism, he gives the genre meaning that people can relate to and apply to their own lives…”


“…it is quite rare to find an up-and-coming composer/musician such as Jacám Manricks, who has already developed strong personal compositional skills …”
“…his unique and elaborate compositions reveal a deep knowledge of the jazz bop legacy and modern 20th century music. With an exceptional talent for arranging, his compositions are intelligent and sometimes challenging, defying their exquisite clarity and emotional accessibility…”
“…the opening ‘Portal’ plays with a melody from Claude Debussy’s ‘Syrinx for Flute’, which Manricks—and later Monder—plays beautifully…”
“…’Cloisters’ is another sensitive exploration of angular and rhythmic complex melodies…”
“…The peaceful yet melancholic ‘Aeronautics’ features Manricks’ warm alto sound through carefully built harmonic structures …”
“…’March and Combat’ is a fascinating bolero-like slow waltz …sophisticated melody…”
“… (Manricks) concludes this exceptional release with the sparse ‘Rothko’ … This slow and subtle composition encourages a search deeper into the music…”
“…Manricks is a remarkable composer, and this release is a superb testimony to his capabilities…”


“…The writing displays a vast knowledge of harmony and phrasing, with an ear for stately melodic gesture…”
“…(the record has) this sense of order and attention to detail…”
“… intricate melodies with tight ensemble grooves…”
“…virtuosic solos…”


“…Balancing cerebral rigour with a kind of grave warmth, Australian composer/multi-reedman Manricks forges this singularly successful marriage of classical and jazz ideas…”
“…With an exceptional band – Ben Monder (guitars), Jacob Sacks (piano), Thomas Morgan (bass) and Tyshawn Sorey (drums) – plus, on two tracks, a chamber orchestra, he references Debussy, Schoenberg and Ravel, as well as Gil Evans, creating distinctively personal compositions whose lucid development, despite their complexity, makes them remarkably accessible…”
“…He’s also a very individual, cliche-free soloist…”
“…a compelling assurance that marks Manricks, first and foremost, as a formidable jazz talent…”


“…This week’s award for best undiscovered gem goes to Jacám Manricks, whose quintet disc with an all-star NY crew has knocked me out…”
“…The title track is stunning, sort of M-Base like but slowed down a bit with a great slow-burning sax solo from Jacám…”
“…exquisite yet melancholic ‘Move’ which features a lovely soprano solo from Jacám …”
…Without a doubt this is this week’s greatest discovery…”


“…Elegance is in a word the essence of this wondrous CD project!!…”
“…both a striking and compelling sojourn into jazz and his original musical ideas…”
“…This project is a remarkable testament to the prodigious virtuosity of both Jacám and the bevy of supra-talented musicians he chose for the disc…”
“…We are fortunate to be recipients of Jacám’s vision of music with his extemporized polyphonic original compositions………………And we must revel in it’s artistic self-sufficiency. Encore! Encore!…”


“…Manricks acknowledges the influence of Debussy, Schoenberg, Gil Evans and Ravel, and although they are detectable, Manricks’ originality is more in evidence…”
“…His strings ensembles float the listener…”
“…His harmonic voicings, uses of powerful rhythms and the electronically manipulated textures of Ben Monder’s guitar are among the elements that make ‘March And Combat’ gripping listening…”
“…Conceptual writing also rules the combo tracks“
“… plenty of stimulating soloing by Manricks…”
“…This one came out of the blue. I’m glad that it did…”


“…some of the most brilliant and audacious exchanges of tension and release I’ve heard…”
“…Manricks’ soprano sax is sorrowful and graceful without being overpowering, holding out longer notes with care…”
“…compositions follow smooth, lean grooves and bold, almost painted lines with a sense of fierce unpredictability and flavor…”
“…vivacious and exciting…”
“…Manricks’ work with melodies and counter-melodies is genius…”
“…Manricks is a bold player and composer, brimming with musical adventurousness and feeling. With this free-flowing, almost weightless jazz recording, he has created a Labyrinth well worth meandering through. …”


“…Jacám Manrick’s second album after Sky’s the Limit is as cool and sophisticated as New York…”
“…There is never a dull moment, yet these carefully crafted compositions are compellingly engaging…”
“… This journey has a twist at every corner…”

BY JOHN SHAND, 7/18/2009

“…Jacám Manricks, in many ways epitomises this new wave of jazz writing…”
“…Manricks’ composing demonstrates an astounding ability to make complex music seem breezy to the listener…”


“…Jacám employees a superior quintet and 40-piece chamber orchestra to assist with these enterprising pieces that skirt the fringes of third stream amid the underlying progressive-jazz element…”
“… the compositions, coalesce, intersect and flow within the symphonic-jazz and quintet modes…”
“…No doubt, Manricks is a serious-minded artiste who effectively balances the cerebral elements with a prominently conveyed entertainment factor…”
“…the quintet renders a melange of intricate developments…”
“… the leader of this date stretches out on alto and soprano saxes while softening the pot with textural flutelines during assorted movements…”
“…the musicians generate ample degrees of pop and sizzle, where the orchestra often massages a given chorus or theme…”


“… Jacám Manricks has created a very interesting new recording that features a top-notch ensemble and a group of fascinating compositions…”
“… a work that is complex, subtle and open to interpretation…”
“…Labyrinth” grows on the listener with repeated listenings…”
“…you are likely to be seduced by its beauty, its strength and promise…”
“…they shape their individual voices to the mood and shape of each piece, and how the rhythm section makes the music flow…”


“…Worthy of concert hall performance…”
“…His subject matter is familiar, yet he gives mountain scapes such majesty his shadows and shapes are creating empty space we can feel inside…”
“…To me the feeling is like the feeling in Ansel Adams’ photographs…”

Concert Reviews


The Jacam Manricks Quintet at Smalls Jazz Club,
NYC 5/22/09 May 24, 2009 ·
“…Jacam Manricks has a fluid, fluent approach to the alto sax, but it’s his compositions which are his drawing card – and which may absolutely blow you away. Playing a mix of material mostly from his new cd Labyrinth – recorded with a 40-piece orchestra – the Australian-American composer and his quintet locked in on the songs’ intricate, often epic permutations with intensity and nuance. The bass and drums maintained a sinuous, practically minimalist pulse throughout some awfully tricky changes while pianist Gary Versace colored them with characteristic vividness and frequently outright menace. Perhaps because this was a five-piece playing big band music, the integral nature of the arrangements was especially striking, guitarist Ben Monder completing unfinished piano chords, or Versace doing the same in tandem with the guitar. Sometimes Manricks would do the same in tandem with the bass. Intelligence and imagination lept from the charts with agility and sometimes a wary apprehension.

Aeronautics, a bit of a latin shuffle with sustained, understated, reflective guitar saw Manricks taking a series of fluttery runs through shifting sections of the scale, Versace feeling around for his footing and eventually finding it, rich and ominous. The modal suite Microgravity was a full-scale masterpiece (one can only imagine how lush it sounds with the orchestra on the cd). Manricks opened it brightly, then bass and piano teaming up against guitar and sax, Monder hypnotic and eerie throughout a long series of quavery, reverberating chordal passages that recurred at the end, Versace practically microtonal with his starry, glimmering upper-register work. The cd’s title track, built on a richly melodic, interlocking architecture featured a playful conversation between Versace and the drums. They closed their second set with a new composition, simply titled 2-3-2 with a bouncy, staggered vintage Cuban beat, Manricks warily expansive over some Balkan-inflected changes to an insistent, intensely pulsing crescendo. One can only wonder where someone like Ivo Papasov could take that song. A jazz educator, Manricks doesn’t get the chance to play out as much as he no doubt would like to: if cutting-edge, out-of-the-box stuff is your thing, don’t miss the chance to see him..”
Lucid Culture Concert review


“…There was fabulous, intense, closely responsive playing all round. Original compositions and richly reharmonised standards; long complex melodies and charted bass lines in accompaniment; constantly changing implied chordal movements; simple changes that occasionally emerged amongst the reharms; a buoyant extravagance of improvisation. I heard Jacam’s solos as exploring pitch structure and intervallic options within harmonies in a modern bop-influenced style, comfortable with long eighth-note passages which morphed into 16th-notes on call….”


“…Jacam Manricks breaks the mould by being a star as a composer…. (Manricks) creates sophisticated pieces, some with multiple sections providing different contexts for improvisation, often obliging players to contribute in specific ways to a composition’s shape, rather than just blowing over chord changes. Much more than clever, these pieces take the listener on unfolding journeys….Such juxtapositions were another hallmark of his multi-dimensional composing, whether it was layering tension on lyricism or melodic angularity on a straight groove….If sometimes his sound veered from austere to thin and even shrill, he was still capable of exceptional playing, as on New Bolero, where he daubed coarse-grained, anguished streaks against McAll’s pretty arpeggios…..”
John Shand ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ June 8th 2008.


“…Enter Jacam Manricks – mellow, haunting. His lyricism was remarkable… Manricks introduced the first number of the second set with the warning “don’t try this at home”. Creatively titled Number One, it was a full-blown excursion to the avant-garde – a musical Jackson Pollock on speed. The audience loved it…Manricks always conveys the impression that he knows exactly where he’s heading and what he wants to achieve, but there’s absolutely no loss of spontaneity in the feel. He is clearly a highly skilled musician. His Doctor of Musical Arts, and an impressive record of composition, suggests that his knowledge is deep. His playing, his fellow musicians and his audiences are the fortunate beneficiaries…”
Review by Brenton Holmes October 2007


“…Manricks’s multi-faceted compositions are highly original in their harmonic and rhythmic language, and the complexity obliges the improviser to maintain strict relevance to the setting. As an alto saxophonist he has an austere sound and his improvising had such precision and rigour about it the casual listener could think everything was composed…”
John Shand ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ November 2nd 2006.


“…JM’s band didn’t disappoint. JM’s original compositions were spikey inventions, with big intervals jumping up and down through sinuous melodies, often with syncopated, written rhythm section accompaniment…the sax solos were initially non-legato, and developed into long, atonal flourishes…There was some complex reading and writing demanded of all the players: good and interesting stuff….”
Canberra Jazz Blog November 2006


This gig was the sole Adelaide appearance of New York based, Brisbane born saxophonist/composer Jacam Manricks’s trio during an Australian/New Zealand tour promoting Manricks’s new album, Cloud Nine. For this tour Manricks brought along Australian bassist Des White, now New York based and US-based German drummer Jochen Rueckert to present a tightly knit, high calibre combo. Their music is highly original and quite unusual, much of it featuring rare time signatures. The opening number On Diva, a fugue-like piece, inspired by a saxophone etude, employed time-bending rhythms of both 10/8 and 11/8. The alto notes flowed gracefully and authoritatively as bass and drums handled the underlying complex rhythms with seeming ease. Rueckert was superb throughout with sticks, mallets, brushes or hand drumming. The trio established a depth of expression, not by fiery playing but by a skilful and cerebral approach that nevertheless conveyed interest, excitement and musical tension aplenty. The only standard of the evening was Jobim’s Luiza given a subdued Latin ballad treatment with Rueckert’s hand, then brush drumming, making a perfect accompaniment as the double bass moved deeply below the alto’s softly poignant lines. The finaleSketch, from a previous album showcased Manricks’s high-speed agility, and featured a knockout drum solo with tricky varying tempos that displayed Rueckert’s percussive virtuosity.


“…It was too short but very sweet. Jacam Manricks visited again from New York. I look forward to his visits. It’s a taste of jazz that I love. Not just in terms of sheer quality, although there’s plenty of that, but there’s a sincerity and commitment that shows in the skills and contorted but flowing sounds. This is intense and busy playing but the ideas flow succinctly and easily. I don’t feel here any clashes of conception, when someone can’t continue a scale to the top register or can’t carry on a sequence or can’t run the chords without a break and so drops into something that doesn’t quite fit. And there’s a strong sense of conversation between players. Maybe crossed but never of cross purposes: diverse, individual statements but easily stringing together. This is wonder to my ears.
Jacam led with his compostions of intricate melodies and unusual time signatures. He’s an intelligent and cerebral composer. Wandina was in 10/8 and based on a sax exercise in some extreme sax key that no-one ever plays. He mentioned Fb minor. Does it even exist? Enharmonic Emin expressed in flats? No matter. The next was Forbidden fruit which has unison bass/sax and a time signature I think I counted as 19/8 split 9-10. Then a Finnish tune which is a standard played at christenings, translated as Friend of children, but having a meaning more like a Higher being looking over a child. This was slower, Nordic, with bass space and mallets. Jacam had arranged and reharmonsied it for his own child, as requested by his Finnish wife. Last was Cloud nine, all easy arpeggios, fluid responsiveness and moves in and out of seductive swing. I admired Jacam’s imbued skills, his ease with all registers, sustained patterns and easy chord transitions: all clear and modern, with awareness of tradition and with no careless atonality. The overall volume surprised me. The whole band played with intensity but with much restraint on the dial. Des’ bass was essentially conversational: that’s the word he used with me after the gig. Rhythmic throbbing in lower positions with occasional ventures to higher and neck positions. Even his solos were more concerned with feel and groove than scalar flair. Very nice and with musical depth. And Jocken was a master. He didn’t seem overly comfortable at this gig, but still this was subtle and vibrant and deceptively busy. I recorded it (with permission, of course) and listening back, I’m surprised by his busy accompaniment. It all looked so restrained on the night. One solo started with just snare and cymbal (and kick, I guess) and intrigued with just dissections of time; then plays with colour over the whole kit; then power and punch.
I don’t do it justice here, but this was subtle and skilled and conversational in the best modern jazz traditions. It was too short, of course, but for the full outing we’ll have to visit Manhattan or maybe 505. There was support, too.
Jacam Manricks (alto sax) led a trio with Des White (bass) and Jochen Ruechert (drums). They were preceded by the Radford College Big Band…”

“…Jacam Manricks is the next big thing in jazz…”
“…Jacam Manricks, alto sax, Gianluca Renzi, bass, Kari Ikonen, paino, and Jussi Lehtonen, drums, at Koko Jazz Club.

Jacam Manricks’s distinctive mastery becomes apparent right from his first breaths. On a more careful listening, it becomes clear that he is one of the greatest talents to emerge from America in a long time.
In fact, Manricks is from Australia and he is part Portuguese and part Sri Lankan. In the early 2000s he moved to the USA, graduated from the top schools, began to play with stars, and developed an unusually interesting vision of jazz.
It seems to emerge from a diverse musical heritage, a lyrical, personal sound, and an impeccable command of compositional theories and structures.
Manricks is not a wild, sweaty performer, but even given Koko’s poor sound system he is able to capture both lyricism and complicated structures together in a thrilling entirety that has more than a hint of something greater.
Manricks has also composed artful pieces for bigger ensembles, making him an excellent choice for UMO’s big concerts.
The whole quartet sounded great in places too, though Manricks’s intense and nuanced performance was occasionally overshadowed by the heavy drumming.
Energetic pianist Kari Ikonen and superb bassist Gianluca Renzi did their part to ensure that the evening was a success…”

European Sax and Brass Magazine
“Sound-Forms Frozen in Time”
Jacam Manricks
Jacam Manricks arrived in New York from Down Under shortly before the turmoil of September 11. It was there that his worldview quickly changed, and the music of this saxophonist, clarinetist, flautist, and composer made a quantum leap.
By Ssirus W. Pakzad Translated by Dan Voss
Jacam Manricks is the master of a great art: he makes the complicated sound accessible, and through rhythmic finesse he instills his music with an unobstructed flow. Another of Manricks’ talents: his music is embraced both by those with an ear for the traditional as well as those for whom the term “jazz” means constant progress.
In the isolation of his practice room, this doctor of music concocts new systems and concepts, experimenting with the metrical division of time. As the title of his third and current album, “Trigonometry,” suggests, the Australian likes to use mathematics for emphasis and accent. It would be wrong, however, to think this means his music is coldly intellectual. “The appeal of jazz is in the interaction. Intuition and spontaneity are what makes this music exciting,” says the thirty-five year old, who lectures, teaches, and gives master classes and clinics worldwide. “Composition and improvisation are essentially the same. Composition is improvisation that’s frozen in time. The nice thing about writing is that you can throw something out if it doesn’t work. I often experiment with polyrhythms and hemiola and constantly shift the pulse around. But all of these considerations are worthless if the music that results isn’t able to create a vibe and excite the audience.”
Manricks doesn’t just write music for various jazz instrumentations, but for symphony orchestra as well. Since he has studied orchestration, he even writes out all the parts himself. Do his small-group pieces benefit from his work for large ensembles? “Definitely. You learn how to build to a climax, how to create drama from the nuances of the dynamic spectrum, and how to handle the different registers.”
In addition to all of his hard-earned skill as a composer, one shouldn’t forget that Jacam Manricks is a terrific saxophonist. Indeed, he is a master of the soprano and tenor saxophones—as well as various flutes and clarinets—though his main instrument is the alto saxophone. He plays it with a brilliant and pliant tone that he often bends and stretches, a tone which transforms in the heat of battle and seems to encompass the entire range of human emotions. Whoever hears Manricks live can witness how thoughtfully he builds his solos. He takes striking pauses between longer phrases, then shortens his rests with unmistakable flair until finally they have disappeared entirely, and the saxophonist can whoosh unrestrained through the tonal systems of his own devising. He compares his playing to grammar, with syntax and punctuation being thought of exactly the same way.
Jacam Manricks is originally from Brisbaine, Queensland, where his parents make a living playing together in the state symphony. His birth name, by the way, is derived from the first names of his mother and father together: Ja-net and Cám-ilio. They listened to a lot of jazz as well as classical music at home, and the young boy quickly internalized both styles. Jacam began playing the piano at five years of age and the saxophone at nine. His father, who has Sri Lankan, Portuguese, and Dutch roots, was rather strict when it came to practicing and urged the boy to take on a demanding daily workload. Jacam complied and developed magnificently as a musician, later studying for a degree and then working with a theater orchestra in Sydney. He received a grant and travelled to New York at the end of August 2011 where he was soon playing with some of the most important creative musicians. He had barely gotten over his initial culture shock when those airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center. “At home in Australia I had led a carefree, innocent, naïve life, and then all of a sudden the world fell apart. The events of September 11 changed my whole attitude towards life and my way of seeing things.” When like many others Jacam tried to channel his tumultuous feelings into music, it suddenly manifested unfamiliar dissonances, and thus he gained an insight: “Music is essential for human existence. It’s a way to bring out what engages and occupies us inside our hearts, and it allows us to document and comment on life and the events of history.”

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