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CD Feature/ Michael Dessen: "Lineal"

img  Tobias

With the CD 'Lineal' Michael Dessen for the first time presents his music and compositions as the 'leader of the gang': Carefully thought out arrangements for improvisers look for the boundaries of their music, their own imagination and ability. This extremely ambitious project may have been a weight on Michael since in his past activities, not only as an accomplished trombonist but also as a man, who holds various degrees in composition and a Ph.D. from the Musical Department of the University of California, San Diego, he already mastered great achievements. This time, as composer and prominent figure in the line-up of accomplished musicians, he surely wanted to deliver an impressive performance. And let me say it right away: He surely achieved this goal.

Just like the name of the album, Lineal, the musical outburst of ingenuous creativity is straight, to the point, and not in any way watered down by dispensable shenanigans. Michaels compositions, although often categorized as jazz, break this very categorization more than once. The music is clean and almost maiden-like in its truth, while never being ensnared by  common places or naïve imitation. At the same time, it transports a conglomerate of sensibility, feelings like sadness, pain and joy, and everything that define those and other categories of human impressions in their very variances. All this is masterfully translated by the painstakingly meticulous use of the instruments involved, may it be in free flowing improvisational flights or the carefully arranged interaction between percussion and bass. Most of the time the leading instruments deliver their duties as supporting acts of the 'rhythm section' in a congenial way, while percussion and bass take their own trips as the head-on leaders.

There are many examples, where instruments like piano and trombone and/or bass find a common way, playing the exact same notes, thus creating a common path, not only accentuating the musical argument in question, but also providing a sound experience, that is, in the given context, extremely impressive. When listening there were some important spontaneous experiences for me, that I will take out of their respective environments of the tracks of this album:
A waterfall of pearls, one of the most beautiful and touching sounds I have ever heard, on  'flecha'. A requiem-like music, reminding me in its sincerity and ability to transport feelings like sadness, tranquility and even depression of Mozarts work with the same name, on 'something singular (for e.d.) (A tribute to Eric Dolphy). An almost mumbling trombone on 'levity in detail', which doesn't seem to want to speak the truth or articulate itself more clearly, being constantly encouraged by the other instruments to do so, while, at the same time, the piano is doing the real talking. And there are many more comparable moments like the latter.

Granted, these last impressions are completely those of my own and do not have any right to be called the truth, what ever that may mean in musical context. I also know, that there are many discussions taking place on highly intellectual levels. Music being dissected with the sharpened and sterilized scalpel of 'knowledge' and the intellectual hauteur of a superior expert. But, to me, music should not be categorized on all costs. What counts, and what counts alone, is what it does with our hearts and souls, our feelings and our own experiences. Looked at it this way, 'Lineal' to me is a well-performed work of impressive artistry, very much worth to be introduced into the library of exciting music.

Next to Michael Dessen, these artists contributed to this album: Vijay Iyer, piano; Mark Dresser, bass; Susie Ibarra, percussion; Jorge Roeder, bass; Bob Weiner, percussion; Terry Jenoure, violin. All compositions are by Michael Dessen with the exception of 'duo', which he composed together with Susie Ibarra.

By Fred M. Wheeler

Homepage: Michael Dessen
Homepage: Circumvention Music

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