Mark Dresser Quintet: Nourishments (2013)
Influential master bassist Mark Dresser leads his first quintet outing in nearly two decades. His complex compositions span an abundance of odd-metered time signatures, whether the song forms are buoyant, temperate or soul-searching. It's a very involved storyline that yields fruitful rewards. Indeed, the program is a kaleidoscopic ride that includes brash or probing solos by saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa and trombonist Michael Dressen. But it's Dresser himself who maintains command and control by steering the band through these progressive and slightly off-kilter movements, fringing on the avant-garde spectrum. Moreover, the leader provides a play-by-play on a per-track basis in the album liner notes.
One of many highlights is "Rasaman," which was originally written for sitarist Kartik Seshadri. As Dresser states, "[t]he piece phases a seven-bar melody in 5/8 over a five-bar bass line in 7/8." It's serious-minded compositional fare, but the quintet pulls it off in such a way as signifies a balanced attainment between sophistication and pure entertainment. A bouncy and undulating rhythmic current serves as the backbone, where the hornists' ascending and singing note lines ride atop drummer Michael Sarin's snappy rim-shots and peppery tom rolls, leading to a melodic primary theme that is, at times, somber.
The piece contains rich textures and dense layers, sprinkled by pianist Denman Maroney's upper-register contrasts. Nonetheless, Dresser's superlatively engineered processes offer the soloists ample breathing room, as Mahanthappa's rapid-fire lines during the bridge precede the subtly changeable finale as the band reformulates the primary theme. Hands down, Nourishments is one of the top entries in the progressive jazz idiom for 2013.
Personnel: Mark Dresser: contrabass; Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto saxophone; Michael Dessen: trombone; Denman Maroney: hyper-piano; Tom Rainey: drums (1-3, 5); Michael Sarin: drums (4, 6, 7).
Record Label: Clean Feed Records
Style: Fringes of Jazz