SOMEWHERE IN THE UPSTREAM
Michael Dessen Trio
Michael Dessen trombone and computer | Christopher Tordini bass | Dan Weiss drums
Praised as a “musician for this moment” (Downbeat) for his imaginative work with music technology, trombonist Michael Dessen culminates over a decade with his electro-acoustic trio in this fourth Clean Feed release, an homage to the late Yusef Lateef.
After studying with Lateef for several years and making his debut as an improviser on one of Lateef’s albums in 1996, Dessen has since carved his own individual path through jazz and contemporary music worlds, acclaimed both for his “black belt” trombone playing (praise from close collaborator Mark Dresser) as well as for his unique work as a composer-bandleader that “straddles the line between the avant garde and the accessible better than most” (All About Jazz). Here Dessen honors Lateef’s memory with Somewhere In The Upstream, a longform “scorestream” in which notations are displayed on screens for the improvisers to interpret, shifting unpredictably for each performance.
Fluidly melding intricate composition, radically open group improvisation and otherworldly live electronic soundworlds, the music of the Michael Dessen Trio has been recognized with major awards and commissions from Chamber Music America, the Fromm Foundation, and New Music USA. This album distills the core qualities that critics have praised in the band’s music over their previous three releases: Compositional structures deeply shape the music but at the same time are always elusive, abstracted by the band in such a way that the focus remains on the organically unfolding interactions among the improvisers and the incredibly wide-ranging expressive dynamics of an entire set.
Dessen wrote this music specifically for his longstanding trio members, virtuoso improvisers Chris Tordini (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums), and the album was recorded in a single take to capture the immersive feel and powerful chemistry that the band is known for in their live performances. Tordini deftly grounds the music’s kaleidoscopic polyrhythms and constantly surprises the listener with endless gradient explorations of sound, and Weiss similarly combines a broad timbral palette with his renowned rhythmic sensibilities. Dessen completes the trio with his own playing on both trombone and computer, using live processing and sampling in ways that complement but never overwhelm the band’s acoustic foundation.
Combining the band’s live aesthetic with extraordinary recording quality and a heightened attention to sonic detail that will reward repeated listening, Somewhere In The Upstream is a singular compositional achievement by one of the truly original bands of our time.
All compositions by Michael Dessen (Cronopio Music, ASCAP)
Recorded at Systems Two in Brooklyn on June 6, 2016 | Recording Engineer: Max Ross | Mixed and mastered by Rich Breen
Produced by Michael Dessen | Executive production by Pedro Costa for Trem Azul