When deeply invested musicians truly give themselves over to a band, the group inevitably becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Manner Effect fuses five voices from vastly different backgrounds into a startlingly original musical experience.
Because each band member’s musical personality contributes unapologetically to Manner Effect’s overall aesthetic, the group’s sound doesn’t conform to any of the traditional generic labels. But despite the wide-ranging scope of their repertoire, Manner Effect consistently retains a signature, recognizable, and distinctive sound. Even though their debut CD, Abundance, includes covers of artists as diverse as Michael Jackson, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Chick Corea, the band’s personality, the strength of the musicianship, and the tightness of their groove, is always the dominant force.
In fact, each band member contributed at least one original piece to Abundance, but — as saxophonist Caleb Curtis points out — their “collective rehearsal process” guarantees that “songs that were written by one member of the band bear the distinctive mark of everyone else.” Although “Flying” was written by vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles, for example, the piece only takes off into full cerulean glory with the addition of Davis’ off-kilter drum fills, Curtis’ wandering countermelodies, Logan Evan Thomas’ skittering piano fills, and PJ Roberts’ melodic basswork.
Even though Charles is the only woman, only non-Michigander, and only vocalist in the group, she is seamlessly integrated into Manner Effect’s dynamic. Roberts believes that “Sarah allows the band to take on many personalities” because she can sing in ways “reminiscent of pop music” or “in an equal capacity with the saxophone.” On the hard bop burner, “Theodore,” Charles’ scatting harmonizes with Curtis’ rich saxophone sound to create formidable frontline reminiscent of Jazz Messengers lore. On “X Marks the Spot,” she lingers in the background, with slinky atmospheric vocals that accentuate the twists and turns of the riotous alto line. In fact, the different ways in which Charles utillzes her voice is a reflection of how Manner Effect is able to look past the traditional roles of each bandmember. “We do not have a ‘leader’,” confirms drummer Josh Davis. “We have five leaders.”
Confirming their identity as a group of musicians designed for the modern world, Manner Effect is committed to spreading their music via all multimedia platforms. Working with a full-time graphic designer who they’ve dubbed their “sixth band member,” they’ve created a DVD that accompanies the album. The DVD includes a 30-minute featurette giving an insider’s view on the band’s story, videos of live performances from their U.S. tour, and their self-produced music video of the single “Flying.” In addition, they’ve built a strong online presence using Twitter and Facebook.
In an age where “jazz” groups, from the Bad Plus to Kneebody to Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding, habitually expand the repertoire and aesthetics of the genre, no group is doing it quite like Manner Effect. “Manner Effect is based on the accumulation of the knowledge and influences of each individual,” explains Thomas, a recent winner of the Nottingham International Solo Piano Competition. “[We] don’t compare ourselves to other bands.” Fortunately, the music produced by Manner Effect — tight, hip, honest, inviting, and original — has all the attributes of timelessness.
Manner Effect is:
Sarah Elizabeth Charles — Voice
Caleb Curtis — Saxophones
Logan Evan Thomas — Piano
PJ Roberts — Bass, Guitar
Josh Davis — Drums