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Jandek - Manhattan Tuesday

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Artist: Jandek

Album: Manhattan Tuesday

Label: Corwood

Review date: Jun. 22, 2007

“Whoever thought it would be like this?” The voice exudes wonder during the final movement of “Afternoon of Insensitivity,” the epic suite that comprises the whole of Jandek’s 50th CD release, Manhattan Tuesday. The music swells and fades, cyclic, as singularly determined as the vocalist, the fabled Corwood representative. Anyone that knows the Jandek story, even having only digested a few of the releases, knows the themes in play – loss, alienation, intense focus and quasi-apathetic desperation. It’s all here, but magnified, heightened in the way that only a concert experience can achieve.

More than on any other Jandek release I’ve heard (lord knows I haven’t heard them all), assurance reigns supreme. Each line is delivered with the certainty that comes with the clarity of adhering to a long-fostered vision, one that is obviously recognized by the trio of instrumentalists on this September 2006 New York concert. Loren Connors’ wah-wah guitar atmospherics need no introductions here, nor do the astonishing arsenals of Matt Heyner and Chris Corsano. Hearing the trio together in this context is revelatory, all three musicians consummate in several genres but now in the service of a word painter. On each successive listen, I find myself less interested in each line or gesture than in the whole, long sweeping arcs of subtle instrumental interplay that doesn’t so much illustrate the poetry as support it, bolstering it and allowing room for it to breathe and resonate.

There are occasional timbral epiphanies, such as the reverberant hollow pops that usher in the fourth movement. They rise just above the homogeneous mutterings and rustlings, following hot on the heels of some beautiful organ chords that belie the poet’s fine musical ear and intuition. Corsano, Heyner and Connors remain themselves while never overshadowing the multifarious situations, moods and tableaus of the spacious poetry. No mean feat indeed.

All is shot through with an achingly beautiful sense of boundless exploration and discovery. Whether or not the poet is still euphoric about finally performing, as has been posited, I can’t say. As with the other recent live Jandek albums, audience reception is enthusiastic, if a bit reverent. Maybe it’s the distance between stage and crowd that allows a God-like detachment to enter the mix, the poetry taking on the character of a public announcement. Whatever the reason, a sense of experienced innocence pervades, poet and band existing in perfect symbiosis, making the concert enjoyable from start to finish.

By Marc Medwin

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