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Mark Dresser Quintet: Nourishments

Dan McClenaghan By

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There's evidence of bassist Mark Dresser's audacity and originality in his sideman work with Satoko Fujii, opening the title tune of the Japanese pianist's Trace a River (Libra Records, 2008) with a ghostly arco whine that sounds as if it drifted in out of the twilight zone, before the ever-mercurial Fujii shifts the tune into a mini-riot between piano, drummer Jim Black and Dresser—a fight that the bassist seems to have (temporarily) won, via the emergence from the maelstrom of his rumbling, chest-thumping pizzicato solo. He's a bit more restrained on his work in the title tune of The Guest House (Enja, 2011), from the collective Trio M, with drummer Matt Wilson and pianist Myra Melford, until the seven-minute mark, when the group slips from a groove into a dream state from another dimension, led by an unearthly bowed bass lament.

But what does Mark Dresser do when he's in the leader chair? If Nourishments is an indication, he remains intrepid—and as undefinable and original as saxophonist Henry Threadgill or pianist Andrew Hill.

The set features Dresser leading a standard jazz quintet—two horns, bass, piano and drums—whose music is anything but standard. "Not Withstanding" opens the set with a hurricane of ensemble interplay. Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa offers up the first distinctively unfettered solo, leading into a tumult of sound driven by Dresser's bass and Michael Dessen's trombone, backed by Tom Rainey's clamorous, insurrectionary drumming. The thirteen-minute title tune rambles to life as a sort of drunken rhumba that shifts, after the leader's intricate arco turn, to a soothing lullaby that eventually moves into a somber squabble between Mahanthappa and Dessen, before tripping back to lullaby land.

Pianist Denman Maroney is one key to the success of this collective's sounds. He plays what is called "Hyper-piano," a style in which objects—tools, toys and whatnot—are applied to the piano strings for the creation of sounds ("eerie" is the word that comes most readily to mind) that reach far beyond the normal timbre of the instrument, or any other instrument, for that matter—adding a uniqueness to the ensemble sound. Another key is the use—on different tunes—of two very different drummers—Tom Rainey, with his obstreperous approach, and Michael Sarin, who is more given to subtlety—to fluid bounce and pop.

A good deal of Dresser's ensemble work is done in collectives, with no single star outshining the other: Trio M; Mauger, with drummer Gerry Hemingway and saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa; and the Mark Dresser Quintet. It's all about the music, as they say—and as it is on Nourishments, one of 2013's stand-out sets.

Track Listing: Not Withstanding; Canales Rose; Para Waltz; Nourishments; Apertivo; Rasa; Telemojo.

Personnel: Mark Dresser: contrabass; Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto saxophone; Michael Dessen: trombone; Denman Maroney: hyper-piano; Tom Rainey: drums; Michael Sarin: drums.

Title: Nourishments | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records

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