Mark Dresser Quintet – Nourishments (CF 279)
Mark Dresser has risen to the very upper echelon of the double-bass world in the most impressive fashion: by choosing the road less traveled. His path of virtuosity has eschewed the conventional metrics of velocity over changes in favor of the development of a highly personal improvising language that includes timbre gradients, two-handed tapping, use of hammered bi-tones, and the amplification of subtle overtones of striking aural properties.
He returns to explore ensemble music under his own leadership with this new recording of his long-standing East Coast Quintet featuring Denman Maroney on “hyper-piano” ( a variant on the prepared piano—extended to the highest degree), Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto saxophone, Michael Dessen on trombone, with either Tom Rainey or Michael Sarin filling the drum chair.
Exploding with intensity, “Not Withstanding,” lurches forward on the wings of Dresser’s “metric-modulation” concept, which uses shifting meters while maintaining a pulse of 1- 2-3-4 to affect the illusion of a constantly speeding and slowing tempo. Mahanthappa attacks the form with palpable glee as Dresser power walks from here to eternity. Dessen rips, roars, and brays before yielding to the remarkable “slide-piano” of Maroney which challenges sonic expectations. Rainey is all over this with cycling waves of kinetic energy and supreme dynamic control. Finally, Dresser emerges—dueting with the sound of his own voice hissing for a solo that toggles between multi-glissandi and thunderous thwacking.
There are contemplative moments as well, such as the pensive 12 tone “Canales Rose,” where Maroney’s otherworldly piano melds with Dessen’s wounded lion trombone, or the gorgeous ballad “Para Waltz,” with its lush horn melody that gives birth to a yearning exposition by Dessen and a heartbreaking Dresser feature with the bow.
The slinky, odd-metered groove of the title track features layered melodic flourishes by Dessen and Mahanthappa and showcases another quality of this music—the blurring of what is written and improvised. The drums of Sarin balance explosive motion with shimmering colors before Dresser’s bow signals a sudden shift in direction into a theme reminiscent of Monk’s “Misterioso.”
“Aperitivo,” is a blues stood on its head with metric-modulation, where horn unisons and a piano counter-melody set the stage for Mahanthappa’s shredding effervescence, Dessen’s warbled, bluesy vibrato, and Maroney’s multifaceted spin at the “standard- piano.” Dresser follows with an undulating update on the “Detroit,” solo, using time itself as source material.
Challenging and joyful, “Nourishments” embraces tradition while extending it, and balances precise compositional deliberation with effusive improvisation.