All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Multiple Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

505

Michael Dessen / Cosmologic: Between Shadow and Space / Eyes in the Back of My Head

By

Sign in to view read count
Somehow it's not at all surprising to read in Michael Dessen's bio that he studied with trombonist George Lewis and pianist Anthony Davis, two of this music's most well known academes. Dessen is a trombonist, composer-improviser and scholar who explores new media arts, the internet and cross-cultural migration through sound. Improvised music has a hard time fitting in with the academy, and can often feel bereft of something once it does enter even the most wide-open of academic contexts. However, attaching Dessen's resume as a writer and teacher to a pair of projects that are quite simply about "doing" rectifies much of that.

Michael Dessen Trio
Between Shadow and Space
Clean Feed
2008

Between Shadow and Space is the debut of Dessen's trio with drummer Tyshawn Sorey and bassist Chris Tordini—a format he's explored since 2005, though this is the trio's first recording. If one is expecting bravura a la Roswell Rudd or BassDrumBone, the shuffle here is at a low boil, pensive tone and a limber hush in the opening bars of the title track as the rhythm section sets up a fractured gallop. Dessen states in the notes that the trio is an exploration of the push-pull between groove and texture, an idea that seems like an afterthought to the very fact that his playing is based on this approach.

Dessen's improvisations are unhurried but very exacting, seemingly behind the beat and teasing the tempo—a plastic pair like Sorey and Tordini is quite essential. The sparse "Chocolate Geometry" introduces laptop-generated sounds alongside mallets, bass harmonics and brass gurgle, tracking like a fuzzy needle through its long tones. Bends, waves, plucks and pings fill in the spaces between group flurry, canvassing the ground before Dessen's trombone re-enters.

The introduction of electronics does attune one's ears differently, towards hearing more than may actually be there. Tordini's introduction to "Anthesis," with its plucked glisses and slippery finger-work, seems fleshed out by phantom digital blurts, Dessen's near-swagger hitting a puckered phrase that's altered and Sorey's cymbal wash taking on the blur of samples. It's a quality of orchestration, but not by means one traditionally thinks about—altering one's way of hearing the instruments themselves, so that one almost pre-hears them. Suffice it to say Michael Dessen is doing a lot with a little.

Cosmologic
Eyes in the Back of My Head
Cuneiform
2008

Cosmologic is Dessen's most long-running project, with four albums in nearly a decade of existence; the lineup has been stable throughout, and features tenor man Jason Robinson, bassist Scott Walton and drummer Nathan Hubbard. Eyes in the Back of My Head is the cooperative's latest and their first for Cuneiform, and it's a far cry from Dessen's trio.

"The Rumpus" is martial free-bop with a knotty tripartite theme, Robinson tracing burnished lines and frantic squeals atop an insistent beat. As Dessen enters with a chortling mouthful, rhythmic knots are briefly untied into strands of gongs and bass tug, the foursome then building a rousing unity a la Rudd and saxophonist Archie Shepp towards the final bars. Perhaps spurred on by Robinson's earthiness, Dessen is a bit more extroverted here, or at least they complement one another well as a front line, as Walton and Hubbard knit a web of constant metric subversion around them.

The disc's first fourteen minutes are rather busy, and it isn't until the last few of the title track (the album's second) that Cosmologic lets up with a little breathing room in a balladesque, measured walk that lets the group unfurl languidly until building back up to a frantic closing match. Fragments of "Lonely Woman" enter into the theme of Robinson's "Dreams of an Alternate Future/Remembering the Past," a bottom-heavy rubato that recalls reverent fire music tone poems, soft front-line prods with a nimble slink underneath.

The line between the written and collective "arrival" at the material is fairly blurry, though Eyes in the Back of My Head isn't necessarily a modular suite. Clearly, time spent in a regularly working unit—rare these days—has served the writing and the playing of Cosmologic and its members very well.


Tracks and Personnel

Between Shadow and Space

Tracks: Between Shadow and Space; Chocolate Geometry; Restless Years; Duo Improvisation; Anthesis; Granulorum; Water Seeks.

Personnel: Michael Dessen: trombone and computer; Christopher Tordini: bass; Tyshawn Sorey: drums.

Eyes in the Back of My Head

Tracks: The Rumpus; Eyes in the Back of My Head; Dreams of an Alternate Future/Remembering the Past; Face in the Crowd; Code View; Theme for Darfur; The Apex is Whole; We Kiss in a Shadow on the Other Side of This.

Personnel: Michael Dessen: trombone; Jason Robinson: tenor saxophone; Scott Walton: bass; Nathan Hubbard: drums.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Somewhere In The Upstream

Somewhere In The...

Clean Feed Records
2018

buy
Resonating Abstractions

Resonating...

Clean Feed Records
2014

buy
 

Nourishments

Clean Feed Records
2013

buy
Forget The Pixel

Forget The Pixel

Clean Feed Records
2011

buy
Between Shadow and Space

Between Shadow and...

Clean Feed Records
2008

buy
 

Lineal

Circumvention Music
2007

buy

Related Articles

Read Scott Sharrard & Jack Pearson: Brothers by Proxy Multiple Reviews
Scott Sharrard & Jack Pearson: Brothers by Proxy
by Doug Collette
Published: November 3, 2018
Read All Over the Map with Losen Records Multiple Reviews
All Over the Map with Losen Records
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 2, 2018
Read John Lennon's Imagine: The Ultimate Collection & Imagine/Gimme Some Truth Films Multiple Reviews
John Lennon's Imagine: The Ultimate Collection &...
by John Kelman
Published: October 28, 2018
Read Singer/songwriters from the Shadows: Jay Bolotin and Ted Lucas Multiple Reviews
Singer/songwriters from the Shadows: Jay Bolotin and Ted...
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 25, 2018
Read Jacob Anderskov: Into the Mystery Multiple Reviews
Jacob Anderskov: Into the Mystery
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: October 22, 2018
Read Up From The Roots: Cary Morin, Colin James, Joanne Shaw Taylor & Chris Youlden Multiple Reviews
Up From The Roots: Cary Morin, Colin James, Joanne Shaw...
by Doug Collette
Published: October 21, 2018
Read "Old, Borrowed and Just a Little Blue" Multiple Reviews Old, Borrowed and Just a Little Blue
by Geno Thackara
Published: December 11, 2017
Read "Debut Recordings On The Elsewhere Label" Multiple Reviews Debut Recordings On The Elsewhere Label
by John Eyles
Published: August 11, 2018
Read "Iluso Records: DIY from two dreamers" Multiple Reviews Iluso Records: DIY from two dreamers
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 17, 2018
Read "Van Morrison: Roll With The Punches & Versatile" Multiple Reviews Van Morrison: Roll With The Punches & Versatile
by Doug Collette
Published: December 17, 2017