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 Dressera 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 intrepidand as undefinable and original as saxophonist Henry Threadgill
or pianist Andrew Hill
The set features Dresser leading a standard jazz quintettwo horns, bass, piano and drumswhose 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 objectstools, toys and whatnotare 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 matteradding a uniqueness to the ensemble sound. Another key is the useon different tunesof two very different drummersTom Rainey
, with his obstreperous approach, and Michael Sarin
, who is more given to subtletyto 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 sayand as it is on Nourishments
, one of 2013's stand-out sets.