Master double bassist Mark Dresser's first quintet recording since Force Green
(Soul Note, 1995) works in several courses. Its compositions are centered around Dresser's personal approach to the jazz tradition and the song form, emphasizing the charismatic playing of all the quintet members, the importance of the beauty of the melody, and cyclical forms. At the same time these compositions integrate innovative compositional elements from new music and embody explorations from his solo bass playing in recent years, including extended techniques, structured improvisation and timbre sculpting. To borrow a phrase that visionary reed player Anthony Braxton
(with whom Dresser worked extensively in Braxton's now legendary quartet) often uses, this is a trans-idiomatic music that does not surrender easily to conventional genre definitions.
These progressive and compositional elements are realized by a stellar musicians, all of them leaders, experienced improvisers,and composers in their own right, who have worked with Dresser in various projects in the past. Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa
plays with Dresser in the collective trio Mauger
, heard on The Beautiful Enabler
(Clean Feed, 2008), trombonist Michael Dessen
has collaborated with him on many telematic projects, and hyper-piano explorer Denman Maroney
is one of the key players in Dresser's groups over the past twenty years.
The seven suggestive compositions unfold patiently and at length. The first one, "Not Withstanding," credited to Dresser and Mahanthappa, rides on a powerful rhythmic drive featuring a volatile performance by drummer Tom Rainey
and strong solos by Mahanthappa, Dessen and Dresser, including references to Charles Mingus
's shifting tempos. The reflective "Canales Rose," dedicated to Paul Canales whose Oakland restaurant is a center of Bay area creative music activity, is a vehicle for solos and interludes that integrate micro-tonal sonic searches. Maroney's nuanced micro-tonal articulation continues from the former composition and introduces "Para Waltz" that transforms the weary waltz rhythm with delicate metric modulation.
The title piece, originally conceived for a telematic performances between musicians in San Diego and New York as a mean to transcend the problems of traveling with a double bass in the post-9/11 world, focuses on the quintet's improvisational powers, first with a fiery duo of Mahanthappa and Dessen, than in a reflective spirit that highlights Dresser's arco solo, all enveloped by drummer Michael Sarin
's rhythmic counterpoint. "Aperitivo" is a play on the C minor blues and replaces the stable rhythm with tempo-shifting meters that enable new forms of improvisation. "Rasaman," written for sitar master Kartik Seshadri, revolves around asymmetric meters and, again, highlights a fiery solo by Mahanthappa with a highly melodic solo by Dessen. The concluding "Telemojo" is another vehicle for ensemble improvisation in a mufti-metered composition.
A remarkable work that unites advanced, intellectual compositional gifts with a strong emotional center, adventure and exploration with feeling and form.