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Live Reviews

Michael Dessen Trio : Irvine CA, May 7, 2011

By Published: May 26, 2011
A brief but glorious trombone solo served as the bridge from the third to the fourth movements. Dessen's approach to the horn was both understated and stunning, building long, winding paths to the upper register; often using glissandi to approach a target tone, then distorting that same note with warbling vibrato and other timbral manipulations.

Perhaps influenced by the "graphic scores" of multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton
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, "Forget The Pixel" began with a veritable sonic storm of computer generated sound—swirling strands of beeping mayhem, shifting on a dime like schools of fish. Drums and bass entered with a staggered theme alternating between the meters of 3/2 and 9/8. At a certain cue, Dessen and Weiss dropped out, leaving the bassist alone to negotiate an improvised segue into even more oblique landscape, "Licensed Unoperators (for Lisle Ellis)." This piece utilized short descriptive instructions, like "whisper variations w/plunger" as it's score, until arriving at an 11-bar notated theme after the structured group improvisation.

After Tordini and Weiss rested, Dessen utilized a special electronic mute wired into his laptop to begin his mind-boggling solo feature. He activated some prerecorded horn sounds while recording new ones, then removed the electronic mute and began a fierce duet with himself—coaxing sub-toned growls live while interacting with the ever-modulating loops. At one point he actually conjured up the sound of huge predatory beasts wrestling each other to the death. Tordini entered the fray, sawing furiously at his bass while Weiss kept his distance, interjecting occasional punctuations from the edge of his cymbals and the sides of the traps.

The trombonist then launched into a melodic soliloquy, episodic in nature. His thematic invention was all the more profound because he constantly visited the unexpected places. Despite the extended length of the suite, the audience was hardly given the chance for its attention to waver—Dessen's music was too full of information for that to be possible.

By the time the trio arrived at the final movement, "The Utopian Tense Of Green (For Mariangeles),"—a beautiful tone-poem written for his partner in life, the brilliant abstract artist Mariangeles Soto-Diaz—Dessen had activated an ethereal, multi-horn choir from his laptop, while the trio commented with throbbing, probing lines— eventually allowing the horn choir to waft into the rafters of the acoustically wonderful Winifred Smith Concert Hall.

Once sure it was over, the enthusiastic audience erupted with supportive whistles, shouts and sustained applause. A stunning example of creative, adventurous music, utterly devoid of cliché, stretching even the frontiers of free jazz beyond recognition.

photo credit:

Danielle Palomares


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