Matthew Lickona 8:30 a.m., Oct. 20
Diane Moser & Mark Dresser: "Duetto"
Contrabass virtuoso Mark Dresser and the criminally underrated pianist Diane Moser first met in San Diego in the 1970s, where they began a long, deep musical communion that continues to this day. I received this advance copy of their soon to be released CD, Duetto on the iconic New York record label CIMP, a few weeks ago, and it's been burrowing its way deep into my brain ever since.
Versatility is one of Dresser's strongest attributes, and being a sensitive duo partner is another. There is a simpatico going on here that navigates the sublime. These two musicians seem to live in each others heads, because everything is perfectly balanced--from the tune authorship to the remarkably even distribution of melodies and solos.
Opening with Moser's "Hello," dark, ruminative piano harmonies support Dresser's violin range harmonics and ponticello bowing before branching out into heady lyricism after a vamp is settled upon. Moser has a deft, pastoral touch that can turn into highly intuitive rhythmic agitation at the drop of a hat.
Beautifully recorded in the reverberant Central Presbyterian Church in Montclair, New Jersey, each note draws its own breath, and the vibrantly clear stereo mix was achieved the old-fashioned way: by the musicians adjusting their individual volumes in real time, as per CIMP's mission statement: no compression, mixing or other studio techniques were in play.
The duo tackle Dresser's intricate, odd-meter "Parawaltz," in unison lockstep. The bassist's solo is yearning, grainy and over too soon. Moser follows with sumptuous voice-leading and quiet intervallic development while Dresser's back-story becomes increasingly frenetic, with amplified overtones and tortuous two handed slapping.
"If You Call Me, Then I'll Call You," by the pianist contains a knotty, chromatic theme full of Monk-ish intervals framed by Dresser's full-toned walking bass lines. Moser integrates clusters and jarring single-note runs in a long narrative--trading thematic ideas and crashing accents in a telepathic exchange with the bassist.
"For My Mother," written to honor the pianist's mother's passing is suitably reverent, yet it contains a palpable joy as well, a sonic tribute to a life well lived. Moser's piano implies gospel music at times--while Dresser's arco bass implies almost everything else. It's a gorgeous piece, full of feeling without ever becoming maudlin.
Dresser wrote the impossibly ecstatic "Big Mama Heart," for Moser the night before the session, and it is clearly the highlight moment in an album full of them. Powered by the bassist's curious double-stops and drop-time pedal tones, the theme staggers about with jangled clusters and wicked repetitions. There is always a blues component in everything Dresser plays--and Moser takes an astonishing solo that places her in the elite of improvising pianists working today. Dresser's solo reflects his endless sense of wonder and play, while Moser tracks his every idea like a bloodhound.
Heady, serious fun. Highly recommended.