For the last two years, Dresser has been using a customized pickup system for acoustic bass, which he helped develop over 20 years. The pickup amplifies many of the harmonics and buzzes from the instrument typically lost in group settings. It allows Dresser more pitch and timbre per note, enabling him to articulate more complex sounds.
Designing this system was a facet of developing his voice - instrumentally and compositionally - for a more personal statement. "Even in his contemporary language, there is soulfulness and folk inside that touches our hearts," says drummer Susie Ibarra, who has performed for several years and recorded the duet CD Tone Time (Wobbly Rail, 2003) with Dresser. "Playing duo with Mark is a very effortless and intuitive experience," she adds.
Maroney, a longtime Dresser associate, echoes this sentiment: "We got to a point where one of us could drop a hint of a tune and, boom, we'd be doing it." Such close listening and quick reaction was evident during Dresser's recent live performance at Barbès with trumpeter Herb Robertson, drummer Jay Rosen and Berne. Throughout the improvised set, he often mirrored phrases played by Berne or Robertson, providing a platform for their improvisation.
"I feel very privileged to be busy doing this kind of stuff, it's fantastic," Dresser says. And he plans to stay busy. In addition to his trio with Ziegler and Maroney, his duos with Ibarra and Anderson, and his many sessions, Dresser has another trio with Maroney and drummer Michael Sarin, a collaborative trio with multi-reedist Marty Ehrlich and drummer Andrew Cyrille, and the Marks Brothers duo with Helias. Dresser and Maroney also recorded a CD set for release in early 2005 on Cryptogramophone. He also intends to develop more music for solo contrabass.
Then there is the new gig at UCSD. Dresser has given lessons and always encouraged younger players, and in recent years he taught at New School University and Hampshire College. He designs courses to be enjoyable and offers students his practical insight as a working musician. Dresser teaches ear training and acoustic concepts, and urges students to explore and utilize the sounds of their environment to develop their sound lexicon.
Though the move back west will seemingly complete a circle for Dresser, he expects to perform in NYC often, and his future remains open to possibilities. For now, he is throwing a "farewell" musical celebration on August 15th at Tonic. It boasts a rotating cast of his many collaborators, including Helias; saxophonists Ehrlich, Jane Ira Bloom and Ned Rothenberg; pianists Maroney and Diane Moser; and drummers Ibarra, Sarin, Hemingway, Cyrille and Tom Rainey. Expect many combinations and some surprise guest performers.
"That'll be the hardest thing in leaving New York - the community of musicians," Dresser muses. "There's a certain kind of respect that's there for anyone who's here dealing. It's inherently supportive and I dig it."
Visit Mark Dresser on the web at www.mark-dresser.com .