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Mark Dresser Quintet Live at Dizzy's, San Diego

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Mark Dresser Quintet
Dizzy's
San Diego, CA
October 10, 2010

Double bass virtuoso Mark Dresser is a player whose expertise in multiple genres defies categorization. His is the story of the student becoming the maestro. Growing up, he was inspired by rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix
1942 - 1970
guitar, electric
, and bassist/composer Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
, and he began his formal studies with a classical music education—soon with Nat Gangursky, a pupil of Herman Rheinshagen, the man who mentored Mingus.

When it comes to jazz, he took lessons from Red Mitchell
Red Mitchell
Red Mitchell
b.1927
bass
and Bill Plummer and a master-class with the inimitable Ray Brown
Ray Brown
Ray Brown
1926 - 2002
bass, acoustic
while still a teenager living in Los Angeles. He moved to San Diego in 1971 to study with Bertram Turetzky—a mentorship that has served him well. He has the distinction of playing with the San Diego Symphony while simultaneously gigging with trumpeter Bobby Bradford
Bobby Bradford
Bobby Bradford
b.1934
trumpet
, flautist James Newton
James Newton
James Newton
b.1953
and tenor saxophonist David Murray
David Murray
David Murray
b.1955
sax, tenor
in drummer/music critic Stanley Crouch's Black Music Infinity in his early twenties.

The item on his resume that has brought him the most recognition is probably his nine-year tenure as a member of the Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton
b.1945
reeds
Quartet. Along the way he has performed or recorded with trumpeter Leo Smith
Leo Smith
Leo Smith
b.1941
, pianist and composer Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis
b.1951
piano
, trombonist Ray Anderson
Ray Anderson
Ray Anderson
b.1952
trombone
, and many others in the improvised music continuum. He relocated from New York six years ago to become a Professor of Music at the University of California San Diego.

Dresser has synthesized all of these elements to create his own highly personal musical language—one that tempers freedom of expression through the navigation of extremely complex melodic and rhythmic inventions that challenge those improvisers skilled enough to join him. While this may sound formal and intellectual, the prime effect felt by the audience at Dizzy's was one of joy. The concert drew some of the very best musical talent in town as audience members. It is a special event indeed when guitarist Peter Sprague
Peter Sprague
Peter Sprague
b.1955
guitar
, bassist Rob Thorsen, flautist Lori Bell
Lori Bell
Lori Bell

flute
, and KSDS "Free-Time" radio announcer Miff Mole all make the trek downtown early enough to occupy the first two rows, as they did that Sunday evening.

The ensemble assembled to interpret this incredibly intricate music was equally as impressive as the audience. On tenor and soprano saxophone, the under-sung horn avatar Tripp Sprague, whose association with Dresser goes back to the seventies when a government funded grant afforded them the opportunity to work together on a daily basis. Sprague has a warm, personal tone, a relaxed sense of swing and a very advanced harmonic gift. "What Tripp can do as a player," said Dresser, "cannot be taught: it's innate." San Diego drummer Duncan Moore
Duncan Moore
Duncan Moore

drums
has earned his reputation as a "first-call" drummer to the many traveling musicians who come to town. He can read anything (this gig required some serious reading) and he can play any groove. Michael Dessen
Michael Dessen
Michael Dessen
b.1967
trombone
of the excellent San Diego "free-jazz" co-op Cosmologic
Cosmologic
Cosmologic

band/orchestra
was another player who has deep roots with the bassist: they have both been performing "telematic" music with pianist Myra Melford
Myra Melford
Myra Melford
b.1957
piano
for three years now. Dresser referred to him as a "black-belt" trombonist. The "young-lion" of the group is pianist Joshua White
Joshua White
Joshua White
b.1985
piano
who began his education in music as both a classical music prodigy and a performer in his church's gospel music ensemble.

It is a testament to the respect these players have for Dresser's material that they put in four rehearsals for the gig. This concert had all of the elements that make jazz come alive. The music was full of gorgeous melodic content, very reminiscent of Mingus' long form work. Even larger were the complex ideas of "rhythmic substitutions." More on that later. If the music at this concert was simply complex for it's own sake, it might have been quite dreary. The gift of this performance was how seamlessly they incorporated all of these advanced concepts into something that just sounded completely fresh and innovative, yet was filled with the blues at every turn. That grounding supported every adventurous flourish. Mingus once said, "Making simple music sound complex is easy. It's making complex music sound simple that's hard." That is exactly what went down at this concert.

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