As Kevin Kastning's work becomes ever more exposed to the music world at large, increasingly prominent musicians are drawn to collaborate with him, the stellar Michael Manring being the latest. Manring's a jack of all trades who ranges the gamut in his associations, from Patty Larkin to Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Deep Purple) to Larry Coryell to Alex Skolnick (Testament) and beyond, including the very cool and regrettably obscure McGill / Manring / Stevens CDs (three of 'em). There's reason the guy's so damn good: he was one of Jaco Pastorius' students…just as Kastning used to study with Pat Metheny. Talk about a meeting of the minds.
In Winter is the prolific Kastning's latest in and around several configurations (see FAME's back pages for many reviews of his work), but the guy favors duos and trios, returning to duet "compositions" here (little of the Kastning oeuvre on CD is actually composed, most of it improvised, though he does harbor a thick text of 200 works written for solo and chamber instrumentations). If anything, In Winter is gloomier, though just as foggy, more spacious, and quieter than previous work of the ilk. In fact, a number of interludes in this 70+ minute disc are almost stock-still ambiences, the sort of thing one only rarely encounters, reminiscent of Billy Cobham's remarkably motionless (except for the middle movement) Heather.
Though Manring is possessed of incredible dexterity, as is Kastning, his emphases here lie first in terms of shading, tone, washes, and coloration, later stepping out to solo in lyrical passages but not chopsfests. This gives many of the pieces the sussurating qualities they hold, some short (1:18, 1:31, etc.), some long (6:30, 6:13, and so on). Manring's the only one electronicized, Kastning forever acoustic, and Mike makes subtle use of feedback, sustain, and other aspects of that realm. In A Distant Path Darkly, Kastning abruptly caffeinates, setting up a Tolonen-esque percolating sally into a quirkily jumping rhythm that's almost latinate. It's a striking contrast to the normally lethean netherlands normal to his work but very welcome and hopefully indicative of perhaps an entire CD of such notions in the future. Nevertheless, it remains impossible to score anything but excellence with the gent's work, and In Winter is another in a line of fine recordings for the intelligent, if somewhat laconic, listener.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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