Alto saxophonist and composer Sarah Manning is a harmonious creature. She is the lone red fox atop a pile of shale on the outskirts of the urban landscape, her singular musical voice illustrating the contradiction of an artist drawn to the woods even as she feels the gaze of a thousand bright city lamps. With the release of Harmonious Creature on Posi-Tone on January 21st, 2014, she unites the small town and the metropolis with compositions featuring violist Eyvind Kang, electric guitarist Jonathan Goldberger, bassist Rene Hart and drummer Jerome Jennings.
According to JazzTimes critic Carlo Wolff, “There’s something animistic about Manning’s work…Her music – original and brave – shows Manning knows where the wild things are. That’s because she’s one herself.” Much of the work on Harmonious Creature was written in the company of owl, coyote, bear, porcupine and salamander while Manning was an October 2012 Fellow in Composition at the MacDowell Colony. She worked in a studio in the New Hampshire woods Aaron Copland occupied in 1956, inspiring the composition “Copland on Cornelia Street” which imagines the American orchestral composer checking out the after hours New York City improvised music scene.
Manning has released four albums as a leader. Harmonious Creature is her second for Posi-Tone Records, the follow up to 2010’s Dandelion Clock, which was number one on Carlo Wolff’s top-ten list for JazzTimes and landed her third place in the 2010 JazzTimes Reader’s Poll in the category of Best New Artist. Dandelion Clock was an early June top-ten pick for 2010 by NPR’s A Blog Supreme. In 2011, Manning led her quartet at the Tanglewood Jazz Festival in support of the material on the album.
Sarah Manning began her recording career in the San Francisco Bay Area. Recognition of her individual voice came early in the liner notes by Nat Hentoff for her debut, House on Eddy Street (Elflion Records 2004). Hentoff wrote: “Manning plays – and writes – in what is unmistakably her own voice.” David Franklin of JazzTimes was in agreement, saying, “Sounding like no one but herself, she possesses a well-focused, slightly edgy tone…” In 2006 she released Live at Yoshi’s: Two Rooms Same Door on ArtistShare, where she shared the creative process with fans. In 2007 she was introduced to the national stage with profiles in the DownBeat Player’s section and in Chamber Music Magazine.
The pull of the NYC jazz and improvised music community eventually drew Manning back to her East Coast roots, from the roar of the sea to the subterranean roar of the train. Dandelion Clock was the catharsis of her first six months in the city, and led arts blog Lucid Culture to remark, “Not only is Sarah Manning a fearless and intense player, she’s a fearless and intense composer...Restless, irrepressible, unafraid and unfailingly terse, much of what she does here is transcendent.” On the West Coast, Manning has led her group at venues including Yoshi’s, the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, the Jazzschool, JVC Jazz Festival Concord and the Oakland Museum. On the East Coast, she’s commanded stages as a bandleader from Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, to the Jazz Gallery, IBeam Brooklyn, the Tanglewood Jazz Festival and Cornelia Street Café.
Other projects that Manning has contributed to include ongoing work with the Jewish AfroBeat band Zion80, led by guitarist and composer Jon Madof. She has performed with Zion80 at the Stone including a show with John Zorn, and recorded with them for a promotional video series for Toca Percussion Artist and Zion80 member Marlon Sobol. In August of 2013, she toured with Zion80 to the Saalfelden Jazz Festival in Austria. She has also toured with UK based rockstar Ebony Bones in the US, jumping around in full costume on stages from NYC’s Mercury Lounge to LA’s Echo and Central Park SummerStage. In addition to support as a composer in the form of a Fellowship from the MacDowell Colony in 2012, she has received grants from the Northampton Arts Council and the Puffin Foundation to support performance residencies that break down the barrier between artist and audience.