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.
Elation is often expressed as the players intertwine their parts, interjecting tone extensions without losing the tunes’ thematic threads. This is demonstrated concisely on the time-signature shifting “Rasaman” as Dresden’s wide-ranging plunger tones dovetail with Dresser’s stentorian slaps, then Mahanthappa heads into screech mode alongside the bassist’s spiccato scratches as contrapuntal lines churn beneath them.
A little bit Latin, a little bit boppish and expressed dynamically as players simultaneously tease variations from the melodic line, “Nourishments” demonstrates Dresser’s compositional sophistication. The bassist’s chunky propulsive solos serve as bridges between slurred trombone and honking sax flutters that reference Mingus’ writing and faint echoes of “Played Twice” as well as devious recaps of the tune’s head. Meanwhile “Para Waltz” is an exemplar of combo interaction as Rainey’s drum beats behind harmonized horns maintain a relaxed feel, seconded by Maroney’s keyboard rhythms, while at the same time the pianist’s string preparations spice the narrative with unsettling microtones.
His piquant asides, plus the others’ ingredients mixed into Dresser’s compositional recipe book help provide the musical nourishment for this key session.
Tracks: Not Withstanding*; Canales Rose*; Para Waltz*; Nourishments^; Aperitivo*; Rasaman^; Telemojo^
Personnel: Michael Dessen: trombone; Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto saxophone; Denman Maroney: hyperpiano; Mark Dresser: bass; Tom Rainey* or Michael Sarin^: drums
—For The New York City Jazz Record September 2013