Monthly Archives: August 2011

All About Jazz review by Glenn Astarita

Michael Dessen Trio: Forget The Pixel (CF 222)
This jazz trio, manned by Southern California-based slide trombonist Michael Dessen, sports a full-sized sound and abides by a rather springy group-centric mode of attack. Dessen’s solo work, co-leader outings, and stints with major progressive-jazz artists complement his educational duties at the University of California, Irvine.
The trombonist parlays a worldly and comprehensive stance on Forget The Pixel, where the musicians share equal footing amid rousing passages, bustling rhythms, and the leader’s bizarre, yet sagacious electronics overlays. The trio adds a multidimensional outlook via ethereal and penetrating segments, in concert with a few spacey interludes that prompt semblances of an intergalactic abyss.

Dessen’s expansive improvisational angles are woven into the structured mechanisms. On “Three Sepals,” the artists fuse subliminal aspects with introspective dialogues, honed down by bassist Christopher Tordini’s entrancing solo. Here, and in other regions of sound, the trio either ups the ante or delves into free-form microtonal episodes, underscored by edgy minimalism.

Dessen’s use of electronics offers a bizarre perspective and acts as the lead voice on the asymmetrical piece “Herdiphany.” But the group often roughs it up and embarks on offbeat treks, seeded with depth and effective use of space. The musicians travel to a numbing dreamscape, and catapult into a brazen succession of exchanges.

Michael Dessen Trio spawns a polytonal and radiant architecture, enraptured by a sense of fractured realism. The leader’s laudable technical faculties and keen imaginative powers are attributes that contribute to the persuasiveness of this multi-tiered program.


All About Jazz review by Robert Bush

Michael Dessen Trio: Forget The Pixel (CF 222)
Trombonist Michael Dessen once studied with George Lewis, hung with Ray Anderson, and has ascended to their level on the creative improvising scene. Dessen has his own distinct style, one that values nuanced gestures as highly as it does exuberance; therefore his music creates a micro world of detail and organically developed themes.
The music for this album was actualized over the course of a year of experimentation. Dessen’s trio-mates live in NYC, and he would visit from his home in Irvine, California to explore and record ideas, forms and cells, then return home to expand and extrapolate those ideas until the seven pieces that comprise this suite were fully formed. There is a surprising amount of written material at hand and it is seamlessly integrated into the improvisational content—forming new aural pathways.

The trio could hardly be more simpatico: Christopher Tordini is a virtuoso bassist who often shares melodic responsibility with the leader. He tempers his considerable chops into a less-is-more aesthetic that always favors the music. Drummer Dan Weiss is likewise an astonishing percussionist who seems to operate on multiple degrees of quiet intensity. When Weiss gets agitated, it propels the music into uncharted territory, and something as seemingly simple as using the brushes becomes a defiance of expectation in his hands.

It’s hard to find a precedent for trio music this balanced and dynamic. One that does seem appropriate is the sublime saxophonist Henry Threadgill’s three-way cooperative Air which explored and codified myriad examples of new music expression in the 1980s and beyond. There is a similar feeling of give and take going on here—as well as an adventurous imagination about structure and form.

The disc begins with the energetic and occasionally violent group exchange of “Fossils and Flows” which carries a strong asymmetrical pulse that drives the music with a loping gait. Dessen pulls and stretches the melody like saltwater taffy—then suddenly, his live laptop electronics enter—acting as a fourth voice in the trio, and setting off some chaotic interplay.

Weiss’ off-centered cymbal washes begin “And We Steal From The Silkworm” before Tordini’s slow, soliloquy of one-note-at-a-time leads Dessen into the melody, measured and probing, before morphing into “Forget The Pixel,” a clarion call of wide vibrato, animal calls and electronic manipulations.

“Licensed Unoperators” explores some architectural improvising methods inspired by the Canadian free jazz bassist Lisle Ellis that utilize written instructions and blocks of sonic activity of indeterminate length. Finally, “The Utopian Tense Of Green” begins as a sensual dance between trombone and bass that quiets down for some exquisite micro-percussive gestures and then veers off into an ethereal trombone choir fading into a quiet reverie that ends the album.

Dessen, Tordini and Weiss have created something very unique and quite beautiful with Forget The Pixel. which both demands and rewards repeated listening.

Free Jazz review by Stef

Harris Eistenstadt – September Trio (CF 229)
To review music in July by a band called September Trio may sound a bit premature, yet nature already seems to be in that season now, with cold winds, dark clouds, heavy rains and mushrooms sprouting everywhere, birds hesitating to migrate and thick spiders looking for safer places indoors.

So allow me not to wait till September to review it, if only because it’s a strong album that does not accept a late review.

The trio is Harris Eisenstadt on drums, Ellery Eskelin on sax and Angelica Sanchez on piano. As I mentioned several times before, Eisenstadt is a great artist, re-inventing himself with each album, not shying away from complexity, but actually looking it up, rhythmically, harmonically, and to his credit, always with the objective to create a great listening experience. The music on this album is not comparable to his modern “Canada Day” band, neither with his superb genre-bending “Woodblock Prints” or with his African rhythm fest “Guewel”.

No, September Trio brings you into an incredibly sad, almost moaning atmosphere, slow to mid-tempo, with Eskelin’s tremendous tenor offering the lead voice, with tremor in his voice, deep sorrow welling up from deep inside him. His warm sound is recognizable from far and possibly one of the most beautiful around.

Eisenstadt’s compositions are rooted in blues and traditional jazz, but of a sophisticated structural refinement and complexity that is highly modern, with interweaving melodies and rhythms, subtly handled by the piano, which offers the music’s backbone, depth and contrast to the tenor’s phrases. Eisenstadt himself is an excellent drummer, adding polyrhythmic effects and subtle accents, driving the music forward in its elegant dynamics.

Although the album could be the right atmospheric musical backdrop for a lazy and rainy September evening, it will equally please the attentive listener, with its beautiful playing and creative angle and interesting themes and subtle sensitivity.