In the early stages of his career, bassist/composer Mark Dresser was working with the likes of Anthony Braxton
, Marilyn Crispell
, and Gerry Hemingway
. His long track record of working in composition and improvisation has made him one of the most respected artists in creative music. On Sedimental You
, Dresser surrounds himself with a top tier ensemble comprised of old and new colleagues, all with a sharp focus on the challenging, open-ended music that Dresser has composed for this album.
The septet includes flautist Nicole Mitchell
, a former AACM president, educator and leader of the Black Earth Ensemble. Among others, she has recorded with Hamid Drake
, Joëlle Léandre
and in a variety of Rob Mazurek
formations. Clarinetist/saxophonist Marty Ehrlich
one of the most distinguished reed players and composers in music todayhad previously worked in a trio called C/D/E with Andrew Cyrille
and Dresser. The influential drummer Jim Black
is a member of "AlasNoAxis," with his collaborators Chris Speed
, Hilmar Jensson and Skúli Sverrisson and "Pachora" with Speed, Sverrisson, and guitarist Brad Shepik
. Trombonist Michael Dessen
studied with Yusef Lateef
, George Lewis
, and Anthony Davis
and he is a faculty member at the UC, Irvine. He leads his namesake trio with bassist Christopher Tordini
and drummer Dan Weiss
and has recorded with both Dresser on Nourishments
(Clean Feed, 2013), and Ehrlich on A Trumpet In The Morning
(New World Records, 2013).
Less known are the remaining members of the "Seven" as Dresser's group is named. Pianist Joshua White impressed at the 2011 Thelonious Monk
International Piano Competition where Herbie Hancock
was a judge and took note of White's potential. His own quintet includes altoist David Binney
and Damion Reid
. White has also worked with Christian McBride
and Ambrose Akinmusire
. The septet is rounded out with the young violinist David Morales Boroff. Still a student at Berklee College of Music, his distinctive contributions on Sedimental You
belie his relative lack of previous associations.
Some, though not all, inspirations for Dresser's compositions on this album, are rooted in quirky and/or darker life experiences. "Hobby Lobby Horse" is inspired by a craft chain store that risked legal repercussions by refusing to comply with President Obama's Affordable Care Act. A start-and-stop swing with interstitial solos from Mitchell, Dresser, Dessen and Boroff land the piece on an intentionally precarious platform held together by Dresser's bass. "Sedimental You" is a play on the Tommy Dorsey
standard "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You." Any similarity ends there as the piece is an extemporized invention highlighting Dresser, White and Dessen with Black knitting all the elements together.
The most reflective compositions are "Will Well (for Roswell Rudd)" and "I Can Smell You Listening (for Alexandra Montano)." The Rudd dedication was composed at a time when the trombonist was battling a serious illness and features an initial duet from Dresser and White and later solos from all but Black. The Montano tribute is seated in a performance from the late vocalist and Dresser on the day after the September 11 attacks. Equally steeped in a tragic event is "Newtown Char" which, obviously, refers to the mass shooting of school children and teachers in that Connecticut town. It is poignantly played out by Ehrlich's mournful clarinet and the anguished violin of Boroff. The final composition, "Two Handfuls of Peace," is another dedication, this one for the late saxophonist and pianist Daniel Jackson. As Dresser relates in his liner notes, his former mentor was in hospice, near the end of his life when Dresser called to ask if there was something he needed. Jackson answered, ..."two handfuls of peace."
While Dresser takes his share of solos, he is understated in his overall role as a player. In creative music, the best of leaders cut through the pandemonium and offer a path for others to follow. Dresser has the gift for decoding the root of a vision, collecting insight from those players around him, and rallying the group to his way of seeing and hearing. He is a thoughtful artist but persistently prepared for something different. Sedimental You
is that something and it both moves and is moving.