Reviews that mention Mark Dresser

February 6, 2021

Larry Ochs/Aram Shelton Quartet

Continental Drift
Clean Feed CF 555 CD

Sabu Toyozumi

Future of Change

Chap-Chap Records CPCD 017

Balancing the timbres of two saxophones in Free Music involves some delicacy, no matter how advanced the program may be. To ensure equilibrium among the participants ingenious synergy must be established. That’s what’s created by these magnetic discs, although improvisational concepts are almost converse.

Future of Change is an out-and-out wedge of FreeImprov in three extended episodes. The chief protagonists are Japanese percussionist Sabu Toyozumi who has worked with everyone from John Russell to Kaoru Abe and American alto saxophonist Rick Countryman, who records frequently with the veteran drummer. Yong Yandsen, a Malaysian tenor saxophonist, who was part of an earlier session with the others two alongside a bassist, is the third player. Continental Drift does feature a bass player, two in fact, San Diego-based Scott Walton and Mark Dresser, who each play on the separate sessions combined for this disc. Stockholm’s Kjell Nordeson, an associate of continental and American players, supplies the sophisticated drumming. But the disc’s focus involves interpreting compositions by its co-leaders; Bay area tenor/sopranino saxophonist Larry Ochs and alto saxophonist Aram Shelton, who now resides in Budapest. MORE

February 8, 2020

14th Annual Francis Davis

7th Annual NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll 2019
Ken Waxman’s ballot

•Your name and primary affiliation(s)

Ken Waxman,, The Whole Note, MusicWorks

•Your choices for this year’s 10 best New Releases (albums released between last Thanksgiving and this, give or take) listed in descending order one-through-ten

1. Uri Caine The Passion of Octavius Catto (816 Music)

2. Mark Dresser Seven Ain’t Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You (Clean Feed)

3. Robert Dick/Joëlle Léandre/Miya Masaoka Solar Wind (NotTwo) MW 986-2

July 19, 2019

Mark Dresser Seven

Ain’t Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You
Clean Feed CF 510 CD

Refining his compositional and improvising dexterity with a series of affectionate or acerbic compositions is veteran bassist Mark Dresser, whose adept septet is able to being out every nuance of Dresser’s creations. Furthermore the 11 accomplished creations confirm that his years as music professor at University of California, San Diego haven’t blunted the talent that initially made him a valuable contributor to notable projects of Anthony Braxton and John Zorn.

Consisting of mostly West Coast and academic associates, the ensemble is nearly faultless in performance as well. Its’ make up encompasses established improvisers like clarinetist/saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, flutist Nicole Mitchell and percussionist Jim Black as well as slightly younger stylists such as trombonist Michael Dessen, violinist Keir GoGwilt and pianist Joshua White. Other uncommon features of Ain’t Nothing But a Cyber Coup & You are six brief intermezzos played unaccompanied by Dresser on McLagan Tines, seven graduated steel rods with articulations midway between double bass resonation and metallic whistling. MORE

January 11, 2019

Mark Dresser

NoBusiness NBLP 109

Barre Phillips

End to End

ECM 2575

Sébastien Beliah


Umlaut Records UMfr-cd 27

Solo double bass albums, at least those of a freely improvised bent, have a clearly defined genesis: Barre Phillips’ Journal Violone in 1968. Forty years later such a move is no longer novel, but part of the bucket list of many bassists. Completing his own journey, Phillips, now 84, claims that End to End is his last solo bass disc – of which he has recorded several in the interim. Consider how he approaches the challenge, along with newer solo bass excursions by San Diego-based Mark Dresser, 66, who is part of the next generation of exceptional low-string soloists; and much younger Paris-based double bass player Sébastien Beliah. MORE

August 6, 2016

Jones Jones

The Moscow Improvisations
NotTwo MW935-2

Butch Lacy/Jesper Løvdal/Kresten Osgood/Mark Dresser


ILK Records 237 CD

Simon Nabatov/Mark Dresser/Dominik Mahnig

Equal Pose

Leo Records CD LR 745

By Ken Waxman

Putting a lie to the canard that “those who can’t – teach”, bassist Mark Dresser hasn’t let his job in the music faculty at University of California, San Diego stop him from playing and innovating. Like a top-drawer business person who is also devoted to charitable works, Dresser is as likely to be found improvising with his peers as instructing a new generation of musicians. These CDs find the bassist in Europe, displaying the precipitous soloing and substantial rhythmic reinforcement for which he’s been known since he was in Anthony Braxton fabled ‘80s quartet. MORE

August 6, 2016


Virtual Tour: A Reduced Carbon Footprint Concert Series

By Ken Waxman

Ever notice that people are never shown watching TV images on television programs? That’s because the concept of a viewer watching a screen showing someone watching another screen moves into the surrealistic realm of a René Magritte painting. This is one drawback of Virtual Tour. Intriguing in conception, the idea is that four San Diego-based musicians – pianist Myra Melford, bassist Mark Dresser, trombonist Michael Dessen and flutist Nicolle Mitchell – play in real time via high-speed uncompressed audio and high definition video connections alongside three separately linked ensembles in Amherst, MA, Stony Brook, NY, and Zürich, Switzerland. Oversized video screens are on stage with each, which at points provides some arresting close-ups of intricate solo explorations or intense responses to each other’s playing. This is especially obvious during lick trading from Dessen and fellow trombonist Ray Anderson in Stony Brook, But throughout the 193 [!] -minute program there are many shots of one group or another waiting to play following solos taken elsewhere. That is visuals of people watching other people on TV. MORE

August 6, 2016

Simon Nabatov/Mark Dresser/Dominik Mahnig

Equal Pose
Leo Records CD LR 745

Jones Jones

The Moscow Improvisations

NotTwo MW935-2

Butch Lacy/Jesper Løvdal/Kresten Osgood/Mark Dresser


ILK Records 237 CD

By Ken Waxman

Putting a lie to the canard that “those who can’t – teach”, bassist Mark Dresser hasn’t let his job in the music faculty at University of California, San Diego stop him from playing and innovating. Like a top-drawer business person who is also devoted to charitable works, Dresser is as likely to be found improvising with his peers as instructing a new generation of musicians. These CDs find the bassist in Europe, displaying the precipitous soloing and substantial rhythmic reinforcement for which he’s been known since he was in Anthony Braxton fabled ‘80s quartet. MORE

August 6, 2016

Butch Lacy/Jesper Løvdal/Kresten Osgood/Mark Dresser

ILK Records 237 CD

Simon Nabatov/Mark Dresser/Dominik Mahnig

Equal Pose

Leo Records CD LR 745

Jones Jones

The Moscow Improvisations

NotTwo MW935-2

By Ken Waxman

Putting a lie to the canard that “those who can’t – teach”, bassist Mark Dresser hasn’t let his job in the music faculty at University of California, San Diego stop him from playing and innovating. Like a top-drawer business person who is also devoted to charitable works, Dresser is as likely to be found improvising with his peers as instructing a new generation of musicians. These CDs find the bassist in Europe, displaying the precipitous soloing and substantial rhythmic reinforcement for which he’s been known since he was in Anthony Braxton fabled ‘80s quartet. MORE

June 11, 2015

Harris Eisenstadt

Golden State II
Songlines SGL 1610-2



Red Toucan RT 9349

Evan Parker ElectroAcoustic Septet


Victo 127

Anthony Braxton

Trio and Duet

Sackville (Delmark) SK3007



TourdeBras TDB90012 CD

Something In The Air: Canadian Exposure for Out-of-the-Country Out-of-the-Ordinary Improvisers

By Ken Waxman

Just as international improvisers sometimes find a more welcoming atmosphere for their sound experiments in Canada than at home, so too have Canadian record labels become a vehicle to release notable free music sessions. Attesting to this openness, two of the most recent discs by British saxophone master Evan Parker are on Canadian imprints. But each arrived by a different route. One of the triumphs of 2014’s Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville in Quebec, this performance of Seven by Parker’s ElectroAcoustic Septet (Victo 127) are available on Victo, FIMAV’s affiliated imprint. Consisting of one massive and one shorter instant composition, Seven literally delineates the electro-acoustic divide. Trumpeter Peter Evans, reedist Ned Rothenberg, cellist Okkyung Lee and Parker make up the acoustic side, while varied laptop processes are operated by Ikue Mori and Sam Pluta, with George Lewis switching between laptop and trombone, with his huffing brass tone making a particular impression during a contrapuntal faced-off with Parker’s soprano saxophone during Seven-2. At nearly 46 minutes, “Seven-1” is the defining work, attaining several musical crests during its ghostly, meandering near time-suspension, Allowing for full expression of instrumental virtuosity, dynamic flutters, flanges and processes from the laptoppists accompany, comment upon or challenge the acoustic instruments. Alternately wave forms loops and echoes cause the instrumentalists to forge their reposes. Plenty of sonic surprises arise during the sequences. Undefined processed-sounding bee-buzzing motifs for example are revealed as mouth and lip modulations from Evans’ piccolo trumpet or aviary trills from Rothenberg’s clarinet. In contrast the electronics’ crackles and static are often boosted into mellower affiliations that sound purely acoustic. Eventually both aspects meld into a climax of bubbly consistency with any background-foreground, electro or acoustic displays satisfactorily melded. More percussive “Seven-2” has a climax involving fragmented electronics pulsating steadily as first Evans, then Rothenberg and finally Parker spill out timbres that confirm formalism as much as freedom. MORE

September 26, 2014

Assif Tsahar/Mark Dresser/Gerry Hemingway

Code Re(a)d
Hopscotch Records HOP48

Jon Irabagon

It Takes All Kinds

JazzWerkstatt JW 139

Two youngish tenor saxophonists provide their own takes on the classic sax-double bass-drums formation with these discs attaining, but not surpassing, the praxis defined by progenitors like Sonny Rollins, Albert Ayler and Joe Henderson. Very much Free Jazz rather than Free Music, each CD has eight tracks and each is splendidly performed. The main demarcation is that Jon Irabagon’s It Takes All Kinds is a saxophone tour-de-force backed by a veteran rhythm section, whereas Code Re(a)d is more of a group effort with contributions from reedist Assif Tsahar, bassist Mark Dresser and percussionist Gerry Hemingway. MORE

July 11, 2014

Diane Moser Quintet

Music for the Last Flower
Planet Arts Recordings 301325

By Ken Waxman

Almost flawlessly composed and performed, Music for the Last Flower is unjustly unknown program music, composed in 2003, which receives its long overdue recording debut. An eight-part suite inspired by James Thurber’s 1939 book, the nuanced performance highlights the similarly unjustly under-praised writing and playing skills of New Jersey-based pianist Diane Moser, an educator and music director of the Composers Big Band.

Structuring her anti-war musical fable so that the brutal noises of combat and bucolic intimations of love, peace and flowers are present, Moser never overplays the programmatic concept, ensuring that the suite makes its point through hearty helping of advanced, swinging jazz. Following a cacophonous free-for-all introduction, the dynamic theme with echoes of Sun Ra’s more restrained arrangements, is first exposed and reappears in diverse guises throughout the suite. Most impressive throughout is the invigorating work of fleet trombonist Ben Williams, another Jerseyite. On the moving “…love is reborn…” for instance when a polyphonic theme variation arrives, it’s the trombonist’s balanced tongue flutters that incites a staccato response, that soon includes sharp boppish lines from Marty Ehrlich’s alto saxophone. Meanwhile the rhythmic connections bubble underneath via Moser, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Gerry Hemingway. Later plunger lowing from the trombone joins kinetic piano lines to attain a descriptive climax. MORE

June 20, 2014

Festival Report

Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon
By Ken Waxman

Wood fabrication in many forms, from house renovation to cabinetry, is one of the industries in the area surrounding the small Austrian town of Ulrichberg. Appropriately enough this year’s 29th Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon May 1 to 3, featured a wood-based instrument in nearly every performance.

First among equals were French double bassist Joëlle Léandre, performing in a quartet with Swiss soprano and tenor saxophonist Urs Leimgruber, Austrian guitarist Burkhard Stangl and Rome-based, American composer Alvin Curran who played piano and electronics. An experienced improviser since his time with Musica Elettronica Viva in the ‘60s, Curran’s tapping on piano strings prepared with cymbals made a perfect percussive counterpoint to Leimgruber’s key slaps and Stangl’s vertical rubbing of a violin bow on guitar strings. Léandre’s typically disruptive response to this was semi-romantic bowing. Later on, when Curran’s wheezy harmonica and steady piano chording referenced “St. James Infirmary”, she reversed course to slap a bass line as Stangl strummed appropriately. When not showcasing high-velocity string sawing which complemented Leimgruber’s extended techniques, Léandre’s ascending, pseudo-operatic cries and throat gurgles kept the program constantly fascinating to the extent that the 45-minute performance seemed to flash by in an instant. MORE

June 14, 2014

Something Else Musically in Steeltown

A New Music Festival
By Ken Waxman

With local jazz festivals becoming increasingly populist improvised music audiences and musicians yearn for programs oriented towards more experimental sounds. Unexpectedly the situation is being resolved 60 kilometres away in downtown Hamilton. From June 16 to 21 the first SOMETHING ELSE! festival of creative music, takes place at Hamilton Artists Inc. 155 James St. North, when local musicians share the stage with international improvisers.

“We moved to Hamilton two years ago, and while it’s fine to see music in Buffalo and Toronto, eventually there comes a time that you want good things to happen wherever you live,” explains Zula Presents’ festival curator Cem Zafir. Discovering that some of his favorite musicians would be in the area in June, Zafir decided to showcase them in Hamilton alongside deserving local artists. Suddenly the festival was born. MORE

December 23, 2013

8th Annual Jazz Critics Poll – NPR Music

Ken Waxman
(The New York City Jazz Record, Jazz Word)


1. Convergence Quartet, Slow and Steady (NoBusiness)

2. Andrew Cyrille, Duology (Jazzwerkstatt)

3. Black Host, Life in the Sugar Candle Mines (Northern Spy)

4. Scott Neumann, Blessed (Origin)

5. Michel Edelin, Resurgence (RogueArt)

6. Ab Baars-Meinard Kneer-Bill Elgart, Give No Quarter (Evil Rabbit)

7. Maria Faust, Jazz Catastrophe (Barefoot)

8. Barry Altschul, The 3dom Factor (TUM)

9. Mark Dresser, Nourishments (Clean Feed)

10. Alexey Kruglov-Alexey Lapin-Jaak Sooäär-Oleg Yudanov, Military Space (Leo) MORE

December 3, 2013

Artist Feature:

Ivo Perelman
By Ken Waxman

“When [Brazilian director] Gustavo Galvão first asked me to do the soundtrack for his film I thought he was crazy,” confesses tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman, 52. “I said I don’t do that kind of thing and play to cues. I only play my music the way I do.” Yet Galvão, who had made a special trip to New York precisely to get the São Paulo-born saxophonist to create music for his film finally agreed to let Perelman do it his own way with musician of his own choice. Before heading into the studio with violist Matt Maneri and pianist Matthew Ship, Perelman explained the film concept to them, knowing that different moods would emerge as they recorded their improvisations. Titled after the fact, and sequenced into eight tracks, the improvisations now make up the music for the director’s first international feature A Violent Dose of Anything. (Uma Dose Violenta de Qualquer Coisa in Portuguese). Not only is the music preserved on a CD of the same title, but it recently won an award as best original soundtrack at a prestigious Brazilian film festival. Would he do other movie projects? “Introduce me to more people like Gustavo then I’ll do more film music,” jokes Perelman. MORE

November 8, 2013

Harris Eisenstadt

Golden State Songlines SGL 1602-2

By Ken Waxman

Harris Eisenstadt better watch out. If he continues to release ground-breaking work like this CD he’ll end up giving chamber jazz a good name.

Over the past decade, the Toronto-born, NYC-based percussionist has demonstrated his effectiveness as composer, leader and sideman in a variety of contexts from experimental to roots-oriented while staying clearly within the jazz-improvising continuum. Golden State is a slight departure since it fuses the tones from two primarily orchestral instruments – Nicole Mitchell’s flute and Sara Schoenbeck’s bassoon – with the non-symmetrical yet explicit beat of Mark Dresser’s bass and Eisenstadt’s drums. MORE

September 9, 2013

Mark Dresser Quintet

Clean Feed CF 279 CD

By Ken Waxman

Double bass master and educator Mark Dresser is known for his ability to stunningly interpret the most advanced notated and improvised music – often in a solo context. However on this, his first quintet date in decades, he shows he can compose and play sounds that are affecting and swinging without neglecting his matchless technique.

While the line-up of trombone, alto saxophone, piano, bass and drums may read like that of a standard bop combo, each of the sidemen is so accomplished instrumentally that the results are out-of-the-ordinary. The most obvious departure from the norm is that Denman Maroney plays so-called hyperpiano throughout, allowing him to expose in-and-outside the frame multiphonics along with expected patterns. Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, who co-wrote “Not Withstanding” with Dresser, is in the Mauger band with the bassist, and his knowledge of Carnatic music helps negotiate the shimmering changes of Dresser’s “Rasaman” honoring a sitar-playing colleague. Trombonist Michael Dessen is established in mainstream and avant contexts; while Tom Rainey and Michael Sarin, who split drum duties, are both sympathetic, un-showy accompanists. MORE

March 5, 2013

Label Spotlight:

Libra Records
By Ken Waxman

“All projects have their own stories and I now have more than 60 stories I can tell,” explains pianist/composer/bandleader Satoko Fujii when asked about her recording career. Luckily more than 32 of these stories are available from Tokyo-based Libra records, a label she and her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, founded in 1996. Although the highly praised pianist and trumpeter occasionally record for other imprints, Libra reflects her most personal projects, including duets and trios with Tamura and other Japanese and Western musicians, solo projects, records by her New York and Japanese big bands, her avant-rock-free jazz combo and a quartet in which she plays accordion. MORE

August 6, 2011

Label Spotlight:

SoLyd Records
By Ken Waxman

Like that of many successful endeavours ranging from the mass production of the automobile, the feature-length cartoon or the personal computer, SoLyd record label’s driving force is one person. While Andrei Gavrilov, may or may not like the comparison to Walt Disney, Henry Ford or Steve Jobs, it’s his ideas, taste and finances that keep the Moscow-based label afloat and is responsible for its massive, (more than 400 releases) somewhat idiosyncratic catalogue. “Sometimes, when I look over the catalogue I get confused myself,” he admits. MORE

June 11, 2010


We All Feel The Same Way
SoLyd Records SLR 0396

Vladimir Tarasov

Thinking of Khlebnikov

No Business Records NBCD 10

Probably still best-known after all these years as one-third of the Ganelin Trio –

which was the avant-garde ensemble that operated most openly in the pre-Glasnost Soviet Union – percussionist Vladimir Tarasov has followed two complementary paths since the trio dissolved in 1987.

A visual artist as well as a drummer, the now Vilnius-based Tarasov has expressed his musical creativity on an acclaimed series of solo discs, of which Thinking of Khlebnikov is the newest. Always up for collaborations, he has established a long-time partnership with expatriate American vocalist Lauren Newton and recorded with the Moscow Composers Orchestra, Hungarian pianist György Szabados and American reedist Anthony Braxton among others. We All Feel The Same Way – note the double meaning of the title – matches Tarasov with two California-based improvisers, saxophonist Larry Ochs and bassist Mark Dresser. MORE

November 30, 2008


The Beautiful Enabler
Clean Feed CF 114 CD

Somewhat of a departure for bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Gerry Hemingway, this co-op band with alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa features probably some of the most straight-ahead playing they’ve recorded since before they teamed up as the rhythm section of the well-regarded Anthony Braxton Quartet in the mid-1980s.

One could suggest that the presence of Mahanthappa, whose past work with bands lead by bassist Hubert Dupont or pianist Vijay Iyer has been more oriented towards the contemporary mainstream players created this situation. But one shouldn’t forget that Hemingway has done his share of straight-ahead work with the likes of pianists Fred Hersch and Michel Wintsch among others, as has Dresser. Gigs in drummer Greg Bendian’s bands, work with flautist Jane Ira Bloom and other less-than-experimental gigs are part of the bassist’s c.v. MORE

December 4, 2007

Trio M

Big Picture
Cryptogramophone CG 1434

Big Picture returns Myra Melford to the interlocking trio format with which the diminutive pianist made her reputation in the early 1990s. Except that Trio M is more than the earlier Melford Trio writ large; it’s completed by two other forceful improvisers and composers. Like the pianist, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson are bandleaders on their own, yet the seven-track CD, which divides the playing and writing chores, irrefutably proves that the sum is greater than its parts. MORE

March 20, 2006


Dubious Pleasures
Rat Drifting RD 8

Clean Feed CF 043 CD

No longer a novelty, solo double bass CDs are now practically a rite of passage for low string improvisers. Still there’s a big difference between recording a solo session and creating one with enough imagination and tonal differences to be appreciated by more than just bass fanatics.

Happily, in one case, and unsurprisingly in the other, Rob Clutton and Mark Dresser have turned out discs that can be listened to by any open-minded improvised music follower. UNVEIL is the unsurprising session, since Mark Dresser, who is also a professor in the music faculty of the University of California, San Diego, is one of the music’s pre-eminent bassists, having been part of bands headed by multi-reedist Anthony Braxton, pianist Satoko Fujii and drummer Gerry Hemingway, as well as his own combos. About a decade-and-a-half younger, Toronto-based Rob Clutton on the other hand, is part of that city’s group of burgeoning improvisers involved in Free Jazz and New music and able to play with any visiting soloist as the occasion demands. MORE

January 23, 2006


Clean Feed CF042 CD

Organized to bring out the best qualities of trumpeter Herb Robertson’s more-than-48-minute composition when it was performed at the Vancouver (British Columbia) Jazz Festival, the NY Downtown All Stars is no misnomer.

Each of he players has a long history with one another, and all – with the exception of drummer Tom Rainey – have frequently recorded as leaders. Alto saxophonist Tim Berne has been had his own bands since the early 1980s, around the time he first met the drummer and the brassman, both of whom have played in his combos. Swiss pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, who has a long-standing affiliation with another downtowner, violinist Mark Feldman, has worked with Robertson since the mid-1990s. As for bassist Mark Dresser, now teaching at the university level in California, his associations on both coasts run the gamut from multi-reedman Anthony Braxton to pianist Satoko Fujii – and everyone in between. MORE

October 31, 2005


Time Changes
Cryptogramophone CG 124

Digression on a theme, TIME CHANGES finds bassist Mark Dresser and Denman Maroney amending the voicing they’ve developed over the years to encompass other sounds.

Utilizing the unique textures available from Dresser’s mastery of extended techniques and the timbres from Maroney’s hyperpiano – a regular piano’s strings and soundboard “prepared” with all sorts of gizmos – they make space for understated percussionist Michael Sarin and mezzo soprano Alexandra Montano. Involved with performing contemporary works by Philip Glass and Meredith Monk among others, the New York-based mezzo, functions here as another instrumentalist. Experienced in musicals and operas, she adopts her tessitura to the demands of wordless vocalizing. MORE

October 17, 2005


Like Silver, Like Song
ArtistShare 0007

Restricted in one way by her exclusive commitment to the soprano saxophone, New York-based Jane Ira Bloom is musically open in every other manner, having composed for film, theatre, dance and even a lighting designer.

Someone who experimented with adding live electronics to her horn before it became fashionable, Bloom goes one step further here by appending electronic impulses to three out of the four members of her band. Bassist Mark Dresser is the acoustic hold out, while Bobby Previte plays electronic drums as well as drums, and Jamie Saft adds electric piano and electronics to his acoustic keys. MORE

May 16, 2005


Illusion Suite
Libra 203-009

Sixth chapter of the ongoing saga of Japanese-American pianist/composer Satoko Fujii’s American trio, ILLUSION SUITE shows her confidence in working up from the single tune short story to the novella length (34 minutes) with the title track here.

Along the way it not only shows off the skills and techniques of the pianist and her sidemen – bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black – but suggests this may be the most comfortable setting in which she works. Fujii, whose playing situations range from massive big bands to electric combos featuring a Japanese rhythm section with a strong fusion – heck, rock, orientation – thrives in this acoustic setting. MORE

May 31, 2004


Suite for Helen F.
Boxholder BXH 038/039

Strength, stamina and chutzpah are the first three adjectives that come to mind when analyzing saxophonist Ivo Perelman’s performance on this two CD set.

Coming on like a contestant in one of those extreme sports competitions the Brazilian tenor man not only faces off against one bassist and drummer, but also another set at the same time. Similarly his version of a double trio doesn’t involve any slackers. Individually and together, bassists Dominic Duval and Mark Dresser and percussionists Gerry Hemingway and Jay Rosen have worked with nearly every experimental reedist of repute, including Anthony Braxton, John Butcher, Mark Whitecage, Joe McPhee, Oliver Lake and Frank Gratkowski -- to name just a few. Besides Duval, Hemingway and Rosen have recorded with the saxman before. MORE

April 12, 2004


New World # 80607


Orchestral and monochordal at different times, the piano is the cornerstone of Western music because of its versatility. But this versatility sometimes limits its adaptability to more experimental music.

Over the second half of the 20th century composers and pianists decided that one way to overcome the keyboard’s innate conventionality was to prepare the strings with different objects. These two CDs -- one American and one French -- show how these preparations can be used in the context of improvised music. Each is vastly different. American Denman Maroney’s quintet is strongly allied to jazz, whereas the Parisian duo of pianist Sophie Agnel and guitarist Olivier Benoit leans towards free music and electronics. MORE

March 15, 2004


An Hour of Now
Louie Records 031

Tone Time
Wobbly Rail WB014

Hearing double bass and percussion as more than just the components of a rhythm section is something for which most listeners -- and quite a few musicians -- never develop a comfort level. Yet these two uncommon, yet flawed, CDs show that it can be done.

After years of improvisational progress on many instruments in all sort of combinations, why should the naked bass and drums --or in one of the cases here bass and two drums -- upset so many? In the hands of the right musicians, five of whom are represented on these CDs, there’s enough harmony, polyphony and tonality exhibited to balance the instruments’ commonplace rhythmic function. MORE

July 21, 2003


A Momentary Lapse
Innova 581

You may well ask, after hearing this excellent CD, who Andrew Drury is and why he isn’t better known?

Answering the first question is easier than dealing with the second. The New York-based drummer/composer has played with trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and reedist Vinny Golia, among others, created and photographed site-specific drum solos in desert and mountain settings, led junk percussion workshops and recorded two earlier CDs. Yet not only are his percussion skills up to snuff, but on evidence of the tunes here, he’s a sophisticated modern composer as well. He mixes the sense of rhythm and sensitivity that characterizes drummer-composers like Max Roach and Gerry Hemingway with voicing and arrangements that connect sophisticated EuroImprov sensibility with New World swing. MORE

June 16, 2003


New Albion NA 118

482 Music 482-1018

Adapting the sounds of traditional Japanese music to Western sensibilities has occupied Occidental musicians from the time contact was first made in the mid-19th century. Mixing electronics, computers and acoustic instruments has been another leitmotif of the mid-20th century.

That the musicians on these CDs attempt to meld both of these concepts is noteworthy enough; that they add a dollop of free improvisation to the other ingredients ratchets up the interest factor. MORE

May 26, 2003


Chasing Paint
Arabesque AJ0158

White Light
al dante No #

Jackson Pollock was a fan of Dixieland Jazz. Moldy Figs may be aghast to hear that when they consider the swirls, whorls and astringent shapes of his paintings, but oddly enough the rule-breaking abstract expressionist was listening to Classic Jazz and Swing Music when he created his distinctive art works.

Truth is one thing, but when it comes to improvised music, Pollock’s work has always been identified with the most adventurous parts of modern jazz. Nowhere was this made clearer than in 1960, when his painting entitled “White Light” was used on the cover of FREE JAZZ, Ornette Coleman’s groundbreaking collective improvisation for double quartet. MORE

February 1, 2002


Cryptogramophone CG 111

Realistic appraisals of the improv sector’s fragile economy mean that even the most accomplished musicians are freelancers, with the idea of having a long-running aggregation like the Modern Jazz Quartet now regarded as pure fantasy.

That’s often unfortunate. For when you compare the empathy, professionalism and exceptional creativity that results from being able to work in even a semi-permanent ensemble like the one featured on this CD, you see what’s lost when players are forced into pick-up or one/off groups. MORE

January 8, 2002


April Shower
Ewe Records EWCC 0006

Ewe Records EWCD-0034

One of the dangers in analyzing the efforts of any non-North American improviser is expecting to find explicit references to his or her culture in the music.

Sure some creators introduce scraps of so-called native sounds into their creations -- Italians, South Africans and some Latin Americans are particularly good at that -- but that doesn’t mean that every foreign musicians wants to do the same thing. Which gets us to the work of pianist/composer Satoko Fujii. MORE

October 8, 2001


Reunion Live
Intrepid Ear IE 002

Nearly 15 years after drummer Gerry Hemingway and baritone saxophonist David Mott recorded Outerbridge Crossing, one of the percussionist's most notable early quintet sessions, the two were reunited for a concert at the 1999 Guelph (Ontario) Jazz Festival. On hand was longtime Hemingway associate bassist Mark Dresser and together the three turned out this notable disc.

Fiendishly exciting in person, laser light exposes some weaknesses that were probably masked by live performance movements. Together and separately each man has moments of glory. But on "Deep Into The Unfathomable", the almost 42-minute tour de force that makes up much of the disc, there are a few dead spots, which mostly can be attributed to Dresser. MORE

March 5, 2001


The Marks Brothers
W.E.R.F. 022

Get rid of that mental picture of Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo when thinking about this CD. Those Marx Brothers -- with a different spelling -- really were brothers and created some of the superlative comedies of the 20th century. These Marks Brothers aren't related, but are two of the most creative acoustic bass players in the world.

Of course, anyone contemplating an entire disc of bass duets may think it's a joke as well. Well, t'ain't funny McGee. Both Helias and Dresser have the skills and talents to make a double double bass program as absorbing as anything put together by any number of other instruments.


September 11, 2000


Cryptogramophone CG 104

Two stringed instruments, three bows, no waiting, could be the motto for this disc. For the dusky, atmospheric sounds that arise from this session are partially created by Frances-Marie Uitti's unique technique. Using two bows, the French New music luminary is able to create so many voices that the overall effect is of an entire string section playing, rather than just the bass and cello.

Not that New York downtowner Mark Dresser is left behind either. Multi-stylistic, with a through grounding in both so-called "serious" music as well as jazz, he can get almost as many resonant effects out of his instrument with just bows and fingers as Uitti produces with her double bows. In fact there are times as on "Grati" and "Sotto" when the astute listener could satisfy his or her bass desires by concentrating on the lower pitched instrument. Additionally the absence of percussion is overcome by using the bow as rhythmic accompaniment.


July 22, 2000


It's A Brand New Day
Knitting Factory KFW-271

Tom Cora's death, at 44 in 1998, not only robbed music of one of its few improvising cellists, but also of one versatile enough to move seamlessly between jazz, rock, improv and something resembling "ethnic" music. But, after all, what would you expect from a musician whose playing partners including everyone from guitarists Eugene Chadbourne and Fred Frith to composer/saxophonist John Zorn and singer Catherine Jauniaux?

This memorial CD, made up of performances recorded at the New York's Knitting Factory between 1989 and 1996, highlights his versatility. And that's its strength as well as its weakness.