Veterans of many of John Zorn’s improv nights and game pieces, drummer/percussionist Susie Ibarra and bassist Mark Dresser convened last July for a rare studio collaboration. The result is Tone Time
—15 intimate studio improvisations that allowed the musicians the space and time to develop a profound musical dialogue. As the title suggests, exploration of sounds and textures is central, and both musicians are masters of coaxing the possibilities from their instruments. As formidable composers and improvisers, Ibarra and Dresser give the pieces momentum, tension and melody, avoiding sound-alike repetition.
Broadly speaking, the pieces can be divided into those set around grooves and those more focused on sounds. “Jump” is a fine example of the former. Ibarra sets up a melodic rhythm with a snares-off drum sound and provides a pulse with the hi-hat pedal, while Dresser plays a divided bass line that gives the impression of two bassists—one playing low notes of a standard bass line, the other playing higher note phrases in the spaces. The title track is also set around a playful tom-tom groove and a melodic bass line, allowing both musicians to transcend the typical role of rhythm players. Conversely, on “Slipinstyle,” Ibarra plays a more swinging drum-cymbal pattern that Dresser hops around, with close interplay between the two.
There are many examples of textured pieces on Tone Time
. For instance, “The Subterrain” features Ibarra’s brushwork and sparse cymbal rolls and chokes set against Dresser’s bowed bass, which at times sounds metallic. At eight-plus minutes, “The Weaver” explores many tones including the drum rims, Asian gongs, and bowed and plucked bass figures. Tone Time
documents two prodigious musicians discovering ways to incorporate their extended techniques and sound palettes in a challenging, yet enjoyable, setting. This isn’t a raver’s drum-n-bass record.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York