As virtuoso bassist Mark Dresser has been performing and recording solo since 1983, you can guarantee that he knows what he's doing. And Modicana fully meets expectations, presenting an accomplished and engaging album which belies the potential austerity of the unaccompanied recital. The limited edition LP collects two pieces recorded live at the 2016 Umea Jazz Festival in Sweden, with five selections from the studio at University of California, San Diego where Dresser is Professor of Music.
Unlike many solo albums, Dresser derives everything he needs from within the physical resources of his instrument without resorting to any additional effects. The program mingles compositions with seeming extemporizations, but the distinction is artificial in any case given Dresser's skill at composing in the moment. He demonstrates a sure sense of dynamics, of volume and intensity especially, but he also contrasts bowing with plucking, explores textures within and outside the norm, and melds them all in a way which suggests a coherent internal logic.
Of the charts, "Hobby Lobby Horse" is necessarily given a very different reading than the septet version on Sedimental You (Clean Feed, 2017), its structure and chordal framework supplemented by tumbling digressions and nimble variations, with a coda of descending discords and overtones. "For Glen Moore" is a vivacious dedication to the former Oregon bassist, replete with resonant bending pitches unified by a barely delineated melodic idea.
Those two tracks apart, Dresser creates captivating music largely without recourse to sustained melody or rhythm. He's particularly inspired by the physicality of the bass, whether the thwack of strings against wood, or the zinging harmonics. "Invocation Umea" might be the best example with its propulsive drama of buzzing, shuffling, bouncing bow work enhanced by sudden swells, repeated phrases plumbed for their implications, vocally inflected cries, Bach-like fragments and passages of mournful insistence, but in truth such invention shines out on every cut.
Invocation Umea; For Glen Moore; Threaded; Hobby Lobby Horse; Modicana Teatro
Greco; Modicana Shakeratu Non Zuccheratu; Modicana Panettiere.