House of Mirrors
Being Mark Dresser, the most “classical” of jazz/improvised music bassists today, it is no wonder we find him in the company of two of the most accomplished improvisers coming from the new and classical contemporary fields, Ed Harkins with the trumpet family (piccolo, reed, 2-bell, slide and modular) and Steven Schick on everything percussive, from skins to Chinese temple bells and gongs. But House of Mirrors project isn’t similar to the interpretations of Iannis Xenakis, Roger Reynolds or John Luther Adams which the last two musicians are famed for. It was born from Harkins’ and Dresser’s investigations of complex rhythm, pitch and timbre, enriched by the contribution of Schick in terms of sound and texture. In the end, this is a proposal emerging from the frontier between what we call “jazz” and the experimental lab of the academic music world, combining in defiant and playful ways, under a solid concept, written open scores and structured improvisation. And if you think that the double bass has a limited range when compared to the varied palette of timbres of the trumpeter and the percussionist, think again: in the hands of Mark Dresser the bass is permanently reinvented. He’s known for finding unusual ways to amplify his instrument. Here he uses a “surrealist” (not our term: you find it in the technical sheet of the CD) pick-up system designed by Kent McLagan, and sometimes he even prepares the giant fiddle very much like John Cage prepared the piano. In one instrument you have several. The magnification of sounds from the bass and the mutation of the other instruments will cause you to relate to them in surprising ways. The collaborators themselves said in an interview with music critic Bill Shoemaker, that in some passages of this recording they have difficulties recognizing who plays what. That says it all-the difference of roles assumed by the performers of this trio in relation to both conventional jazz and contemporary music is really something else, and undoubtedly superb.