Mark Dresser

Mark Dresser: Bass guitar

Genre: Noise | Xprmntl

RIYL: Bobbt Bradford, Anthony Braxton

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Influences: Stanley Crouch, Bobby Bradford, Arthur Blythe, David Murray, James Newton


Bassist and solo contrabass player Mark Dresser studied with Bertram Turetzky at the University of California San Diego, earning BA and MA degrees. Dresser took part in the Los Angeles avant-garde jazz scene of the early '70s, while concurrently performing with the San Diego Symphony. After a 1983 trip to Italy to study with Franco Petracchi, he joined Anthony Braxton's quartet with whom he performed and recorded for nearly a decade. This group was documented in Graham Lock's book Forces in Motionand in numerous recordings.

Living in NY from 1986 to 2004, Dresser recorded with Ray Anderson, Jane Ira Bloom, Tim Berne, Anthony Davis, Dave Douglas, Osvaldo Golijov, Gerry Hemingway, Bob Ostertag, Joe Lovano, Roswell Rudd, Dawn Upshaw, and John Zorn. Under his own name, he has recorded solo, duo, trio, and chamber music. Dresser left New York in 2004, to accept a teaching position at the music department at UC San Diego.

At the core of the bassist's muse is a direct connection to the blues. Originally inspired by Charles Mingus and Jimi Hendrix, Dresser's compositions constantly up the ante on how far traditional elements can be stretched. His bass technique is chock full of seemingly impossible maneuvers, which he pulls off with a maddeningly casual ease.

Dresser pushes the sonic limits of the instrument, aided by custom-made electronics. A chapter on his extended techniques for contrabass, "A Personal Pedagogy," appears in his book ARCANA. He received a 2003 Grammy nomination, two NYFA grants, Meet the Composer commissions, a McKim Fund commission at the Library of Congress, and commissions from sculptor Robert Taplin and flutist Matthias Ziegler.

He has worked as a professor of music at the University of California, San Diego, and has also been a lecturer at Princeton University, the New School University, and Hampshire College. As of 2011, his band includes saxophonist Tripp Sprague, trombonist Michael Dessen, pianist Joshua White, and drummer Duncan Moore.

As of 2011, has several active ensembles including Trio M with pianist Myra Melford and East Coast drummer Matt Wilson, another trio with Melford and trombonist Michael Dessen, a Southern California Quintet and a NYC version with Dessen, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, drummer Tom Rainey and pianist Denman Maroney.

In April 2011, he played five “telematic” concerts (with performers in different cities using the Internet 2, and state-of-the-art hardware and software to play together, in real time). He then flew back east for a recording of Anthony Braxton's music on the Tzadik label with pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Gerry Hemmingway.

The following month, Dresser toured Germany, Austria and the Netherlands with Trio M, gave workshops, performed concerts, and made a recording in Israel with tenor saxophonist Assif Tsahar and Hemmingway. In June 2011, he played a sold out concert in NYC with his quintet, and recorded a Trio M session for the German record label ENJA, to be released this fall.

He then flew to Portugal to teach two workshops and perform John Cage’s “Four 6.” In August, he and vocalist Jen Shyu released a CD on the Pi Recordings label called Synastry. Shyu excelled as a prodigy on piano and violin before she began singing. Trained in classical music, opera and jazz, she is also a committed ethno-musicologist, having studied Balinese gamelan music, and the folk music of Taiwan, East Timor, and Cuba.

In summer 2015, the jazz bassist was one of seven recipients to receive the Doris Duke Impact Award, splitting an $80,000 award with other nationwide proponents of the arts.


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