So much has been written about Mark Dresser's brilliance as a bassist that his skill as a composer can be in danger of being forgotten. But showcases like Sedimental You and its predecessor Nourishments (Clean Feed, 2014) should more than redress that potential imbalance. His artfully arranged structures prove engaging vehicles for the improvisational insight of his star-studded cast. Trombonist Michael Dessen constitutes the only holdover from the previous outing. He's joined in the front line by flutist Nicole Mitchell and reedman Marty Ehrlich, along with newcomer violinist David Morales Boroff, while supplementing the leader in the engine room are drummer Jim Black and pianist Joshua White.
Dresser's diverse program encompasses austere and romantic sensibilities alongside jazz ballads and repetition-based constructs, but the closest he gets to a groove is in "Hobby Lobby Horse." It acts as a sprightly introduction to band, featuring a series of brief unaccompanied soloists, later allowed longer turns during the involved but swinging piece. Mitchell's jaunt is particularly pleasing fluttering and gliding, eliding between flute and voice. But progress is not that straightforward, broken up by pauses, breaks and interpolations, in clever but satisfying variations. And there are layers of intrigue too, as bass and drums switch in and out of the written material behind the soloists.
While each cut packs a lot in, the end result never feels claustrophobic. Sedimental seems an appropriate reference in its allusion to strata, and that's exactly what the title track suggests when White's lilting rendition of the 1930s standard "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," appears from beneath deposits of improv noise, breaths and abrasions. Gradually the recalcitrant chorus comes to order and Ehrlich and Boroff double the melody as Dessen's trombone woozily emotes. Eventually it all falls apart at the seams to leave Dresser's distinctive bass croaks and twangs to finish alone.
Almost every number is similarly multidimensional, but it's the final two which pack the emotional punch. "Newtown Char" begins with Ehrlich's anguished bass clarinet cries, presaging an involved chamber theme. In the liners, Dresser explains that he wanted to commemorate mass shooting tragedies in a similar vein to John Coltrane's lament "Alabama." While the bursts of individual and collective expression which follow don't quite attain that exalted level, it's an alluring piece nonetheless. And the equally affecting "Two Handfuls Of Peace" brings the disc to a fine end in a lullaby of elegiac hymnal Americana.
Hobby Lobby Horse; Sedimental You; Trumpinputinstoopin; Will Well (For Roswell Rudd); I Can Smell You Listening (For Alexandra Montano); Newtown Char; Two Handfuls Of Peace (For Daniel Jackson).
Mark Dresser: contrabass; Nicole Mitchell: soprano and alto flutes; Marty Ehrlich: clarinet and bass clarinet; David Morales Boroff: violin; Michael Dessen: trombone; Joshua White: piano; Jim Black: drums and percussion.
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