As an educator, Anthony Braxton is easily on par with such luminaries as Captain Walter Dyett and Art Blakey. Near innumerable students have passed through his classes at Wesleyan and/or benefited from the musical incubators that are his bands. Among their number are Messieurs Dresser and Anderson. Both men have built careers from their early associations with Braxton. Both have long since found their own directions and become their former employer’s peers.
Their CIMP meeting substituted in the stead of another cancelled session, somewhat last minute, but hardly half-cocked. The chosen instrumentation may appear unusual, but the fact is that Dresser and Anderson has been engaging in duo performances for going on three decades. Their approach stands apart from European counterparts like Paul Rogers and Paul Rutherford (see Rogues on Emanem). For one there’s Anderson’s now routine jocularity. His array of chortles, eructations and sliding hilarity is pretty much unmatched in the vernacular of jazz trombone and there are some strong contenders—Rudd, Weirbos, the Bauer brothers, etc.—to the crown. Dresser has a drier, if capricious sense of his strings. On a recent duo encounter with Susie Ibarra (Tone Time on Wobbly Rail) this sort of on-the-fly levity also came to the fore.
“One Plate” piles a banquet’s worth of ideas into a single piece. Dresser’s whirring arco drones wash against Anderson’s fluttering brassy sustains to create a tonal field broken by slashing strokes. The mood is surprisingly somber given the trombonist’s reputation, but gorgeously rendered. A switch to bouncing syncopated pizzicato at the median invests the excursion with a welcome centering groove. Dresser’s bass sounds loud and clear in the acoustics of The Spirit Room, a space notorious for its tendency to swallow up less athletic practitioners on the instrument. On the brief “Ekoneni” his delicate plucks high on the fingerboard sound strangely akin to notes voiced on a thumb piano. “Taps For Jackie” registers as the date’s other extended entry. A eulogy for Anderson’s dearly departed wife, it’s a piece full of grief, but also fond remembrance.
Dresser’s “Five Outer Planets” Suite serves an interlude of densely packed miniatures. Each planet receives what amounts to a tone sketch in its honor in a separate bass tuning. The duo even tackles a pair of standards. Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” comes first. Lending the piece an almost anthemic resonance and drawing on its spiritual dirge roots the two devise an interpretation rich with pathos and beauty. The program closes with a larksome take on “I’m Confessin’ That I Love You.” Dresser and Anderson prove conclusively what creative music enthusiasts already know. Meaningful and involving music can be conjured on any pair of instruments, no matter how seemingly disparate in character, as long as the musicians wielding them are able to achieve a consonance of intent and execution.
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Personnel: Mark Dresser- bass; Ray Anderson- trombone. Recorded: September 25 & 26, 2003, Rossie, NY.