The Bell

Ches Smith, Craig Taborn, Mat Maneri

The Bell features dynamic chamber music compositions written for masterful improvisers.  “The best thing I caught all weekend,” said critic Peter Margasak of the 2014 New York Winter Jazzfest, “was a superb trio led by drummer Ches Smith with pianist Craig Taborn and violist Mat Maneri, which expertly infused seductively narcotic writing with a mixture of brooding melody and rich texture.” Since that NY debut, the trio has become a priority project for all participants and in June 2015 Smith, Taborn and Maneri recorded The Bell at Avatar Studios with Manfred Eicher as producer.  Ches Smith’s first album as a leader for ECM follows appearances for the label with Tim Berne’s Snakeoil and with Robin Williamson.  Ches has worked a very wide range of music in the course of his career, playing with musicians from Terry Riley to Wadada Leo Smith to Marc Ribot and his own groups have been informed by his far-reaching experience.  His early biography included studies in composition with Pauline Oliveros and Alvin Curran and his taut writing for the trio on The Bell triggers inspired contributions from Taborn and Maneri, in an album which gradually builds in intensity.  “The Bell” is issued on the eve of a major tour with concerts in the US, Canada, Portugal, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway through January and February. In March the trio heads to South America.
The Bell präsentiert dynamische Kammermusik, komponiert für Meister der Improvisation. „Das Beste, was ich während des gesamten Wochenendes hörte“, schrieb Peter Margasak von der New York Times nach dem New York Winter Jazzfest 2014, „war ein superbes Trio, angeführt von dem Schlagzeuger Ches Smith mit dem Pianisten Craig Taborn und dem Bratscher Mat Maneri, das verführerisch narkotisierende Kompositionen gekonnt mit einer Mischung aus grüblerischen Melodien und satten Texturen auflud.“
Seit diesem New-York-Debüt hat das Trio für alle Beteiligten Priorität. Im Juni 2015 nahm Produzent Manfred Eicher in den New Yorker Avatar Studio mit Smith, Taborn und Maneri schließlich das Album The Bell auf. Ches Smith’s erstes Album für das Label als Leader folgt auf Beiträge zu ECM-Alben von Tim Berne’s Snakeoil und Robin Williamson. Ches hat im Lauf seiner Karriere ein weites musikalisches Spektrum bearbeitet, mit Musikern von Terry Riley bis Wadada Leo Smith und Marc Ribot gespielt. Seine eigenen Gruppen sind durch diese weitreichende Erfahrung geprägt worden. Zur Frühphase seiner Biographie gehören Kompositionsstudien bei Pauline Oliveros und Alvin Curran, sein straffer Kompositionsstil löst inspirierte Beiträge Taborns und Maneris aus – auf einem Album, dessen Intensität sich Schritt für Schritt. The Bell erscheint am Vorabend einer großen Tournee im Januar und Februar 2016 mit Konzerten in den USA, Kanada, Portugal, Österreich, Dänemark, Schweden und Norwegen. Im März bricht das  Trio dann nach Südamerika auf.
Featured Artists Recorded

June 2015, Avatar Studios, New York

Original Release Date


  • 1The Bell
    (Ches Smith)
  • 2Barely Intervallic
    (Ches Smith)
  • 3Isn't It Over?
    (Ches Smith)
  • 4I'll See You On The Dark Side Of The Earth
    (Ches Smith)
  • 5I Think
    (Ches Smith)
  • 6Wacken Open Air
    (Ches Smith)
  • 7It's Always Winter Somewhere
    (Ches Smith)
  • 8For Days
    (Ches Smith)
Smith’s early development as a composer was influenced by studies at Oakland’s Mills College with Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Curran, Fred Frith and William Winant: “I got good ideas from all of them. I wasn’t there primarily to learn composition, percussion performance was officially my course, but I was continually encouraged and challenged to bring in material and work on it.” Ches Smith’s CV resembles that of few other musicians. He played in grunge, punk and metal bands before exploring jazz and free improvisation, although he counts Thelonious Monk amongst his earliest influences. He has worked with musicians from rock band Mr Bungle to composer Terry Riley, from Marc Ribot’s band Ceramic Dog to Wadada Leo Smith. He gives solo performances with his electronically-oriented project Congs For Brums (“micro and polytonal and on the harsh side”), leads his own group These Arches with Tim Berne, Mary Halvorson, Tony Malaby and Andrea Parkins, and plays in guitarist Halvorson’s diverse projects. He’s a member of Tim Berne’s Snakeoil with three albums so far on ECM, and also appears, alongside Mat Maneri, on singer-songwriter Robin Williamson’s album Trusting In The Rising Light. “I’ve always been attracted to the examples in each genre that defy it”, Smith told Jazz Times. “I just try to play what I hear.” The Bell is his first ECM leader disc. “It’s the most dramatic album I’ve ever made”, says Ches of the the way in which it builds in intensity. “[Producer] Manfred Eicher has a unique sense for sequencing. I think of the album also as a collaboration with him: this project wasn’t yet a band when I first proposed it to ECM, and his advice and decisiveness in the studio were very helpful.”
Violist Mat Maneri has been recording for ECM for 20 years, starting with Three Men Walking in 1995, with his father, the late saxophonist/clarinettist and microtonal music innovator Joe Maneri, and guitarist Joe Morris. Mat’s discography for the label includes a solo album, Trinity, and most recently Transylvanian Concert with pianist Lucian Ban. Latterly he has been playing viola duets with Tanya Kalmanovitch and working in the ensembles of pianist Kris Davis. Mat’s primary teacher was Juilliard String Quartet founder Robert Koff, and his improvisations are informed and grounded by his knowledge of contemporary and classical composition, as well as the jazz tradition.
Craig Taborn’s ECM recordings include a solo piano album, Avenging Angel, and a trio disc, Chants, with Thomas Morgan and Gerald Cleaver. He made his ECM debut as a member of Roscoe Mitchell’s Note Factory on Nine To Get Ready in 1997 appearing also on later discs with Mitchell including Composition/Improvisation 1, 2 & 3 and Far Side (further recordings with Roscoe are in preparation). He has also recorded for ECM with Evan Parker, Michael Formanek, Chris Potter and David Torn. Discs elsewhere include Junk Magic, a 2004 album with Mat Maneri’s participation. Outside of a few ad hoc gigs and a David Torn concert where Ches subbed for Tom Rainey, Taborn and Smith hadn’t played together much before the formation of the present trio, but the value of the collaboration is evident in every moment of The Bell, as Taborn works rigorously with the musical material and its implications.