Between Shadow and Space

Composers drawing on visual arts or literary works for inspiration and guidance are nothing new. Think Mussorgsky’s “Picture at an Exhibition” or even Scott Fields’ Clean Feed release “Beckett.” This CD by trombonist Michael Dessen and his trio continues the tradition. The disc is inspired by Pablo Neruda’s poem “Ars Poetica.” The album’s title (and of the first piece) is from one of the poem’s verses. These kinds of inspirations continue throughout the CD. “Chocolate Geometry” comes from Dessen's appreciation of the abstract and conceptual art of Mariángeles Soto-Diaz. “Anthesis” alludes to botanics, which is the flowering period of a plant. And “Granulorum,” even if the musician didn't consider it when writing this composition, reminds us of the miniature rice paintings of Korean traditional artists. This is one of the few Clean Feed editions that includes electronics; the computer is Dessen's second instrument. This example of electroacoustic jazz combines African-American traditions with 20th-century experimental techniques. Michael Dessen and his partners, Christopher Tordini on double bass and Tyshawn Sorey on percussion, work with strong collective sense on two planes, one temporal, with a flowing drive that enhances the nature of music as an art of time, and the other spatial, in a granular, organic way, transposing to the sound world characteristics associated with visual arts. Active on the southern California scenes, this disciple of musicians such George Lewis, Anthony Davis, and Yusef Lateef has developed partnerships with the likes of Mark Dresser, Vijay Iyer, Susie Ibarra, J.D. Parran, Marty Ehrlich, and many more. The rhythm section members are just as busy, with Sorey achieving acclaim for his subtle approach to skins and metals, and Tordini known as a bassist who can be depended on.

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