Mark Dresser Quintet – Nourishments (CF 279)
Bassist Mark Dresser is known for his stunning ability to interpret the most advanced notated and improvised music. However, on his first quintet date in decades, he shows he can compose affecting and swinging music without neglecting his matchless technique.
While the line up of trombone, alto saxophone, piano, bass and drums may sound standard, each sideman is so accomplished that the results are out of the ordinary. The most obvious departure from the norm is that Denman Maroney plays so-called hyperpiano throughout, allowing him to exposein-and-outside-the-frame multiphonics along with expected patterns. Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, who co-wrote “Not Withstanding” with Dresser, has a knowledge of Carnatic music that helps him negotiate the shimmering changes of the leader’s“Rasaman”, which honors a sitar-playing colleague. Trombonist Michael Dessen is established in mainstream and avant contexts while Tom Rainey and Michael Sarin, who split drum duties, are both sympathetic, un-showy accompanists.
The players intertwine their parts, interjecting tone extensions without losing the tunes’ thematic threads, as on the time-signature shifting “Rasaman”. Dessen’s wide-ranging plunger tones dovetail with Dresser’s stentorian slaps, Mahanthappa heading into screech mode alongside the bassist’s spiccato scratches as contrapuntal lines churn beneath them. A little bit Latin, a little bit boppish, the title track demonstrates Dresser’s compositional sophistication as players simultaneously tease variations from the melodic line. His chunky solos serve as bridges between slurred trombone and honking sax flutters, referencing Mingus’ writing and faint echoes of “Played Twice” as well as devious recaps of the tune’s head. “Para Waltz” is an exemplar of group interaction as Rainey’s drumbeats behind harmonized horns maintain a relaxed feel, seconded by Maroney’s keyboard rhythms. At the same time the pianist’s string preparations spice the narrative with unsettling microtones.
Dresser’s piquant asides, plus the other ingredients used his compositional recipe book, help provide the musical nourishment for this key session.