The New York City Jazz Record by Stuart Broomer

Michael Dessen Trio – Forget the Pixel (CF 222)
Michael Dessen is a California-based trombonist, a former member of/composer for the memorable band Cosmologic and a frequent colleague of bassist Mark Dresser. At one time a student of George Lewis, Dessen appropriately combines brilliant trombone skills with interests in electronics and novel compositional strategies. His trio includes bassist Christopher Tordini and drummer Dan Weiss and he describes Forget the Pixel as an “hour-long cycle of music designed for this trio to perform in a single, continuous set. ”The end result is a remarkable achievement. If the timbral possibilities of a trombone-bass-drum band might seem limited, Dessen varies things with electronics and the trio maintains constant interest through a multi-leveled interaction of compositional methodologies, collective improvisation and polyrhythmic exploration. There are multiple senses of movement and development going on at once in this music, as it makes its way from the furious swing, jazzy bluster and electronics of the opening “Fossils and Flows” to the serene conclusion of “The Utopian Sense of Green”, in which the players summon up all the calm and grace of a Japanese garden. Along the way, the music repeatedly finds original dimensions, as in the elongated dialogue of “Three Sepals”, a piece that is born in Dessen’s sweetly traditional legato trombone then gradually opens into a field in which first Tordini, then the others seem to beetching the barest rhythmic and melodic materials on silence. A similarly broad canvas on the title track becomes a series of micro-explosions and dislocations: Dessen’s opening vocalic explosion gradually accumulates an electronic self-commentary; there are passages of pointillist scattershot bass and a long trio sequence in which Weiss’ snare drum seems to tie together the group’s multiple rhythms in a compact bundle. It’s fascinating work by an exceptional group of musicians, at times combining the cheery openness of song with a sense of underlying tectonic mystery.

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