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The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library drew a packed house for their noon-time presentation of the Joshua White Trio-- this time featuring bassist Mark Dresser, and LA drummer Dan Schnelle.

This concert marked the third Dresser appearance in San Diego in the last seven days--all too rare for the hometown treasure, and entirely appropriate--given the fact that he's leaving tomorrow for a 10 day tour of Australia with Trio M.

White and Dresser began the concert as a duo, opening with "Ekoneni," a vibrant, Zimbabwean-inspired piece. Tinkling piano harmonies hovered over the sharply rhythmic phrasing of the bassist as the two danced around each other until the theme eked itself out from the storm-cloud of their improvisation. The pianist leapt forward with one of the most vividly effusive and gospelish solos I've ever heard from him, and Dresser's spot was loaded with strummed assaults, double glissandi and perpetual forward motion. http://sandiegoreader.com/users/photo...

Schnelle joined the group for a reading of Herbie Nichols' "Cro Magnon Nights" doubling the wicked steam-engine cluster rhythm of White before the jagged bebop-meets-freebop head came whipping by. The pianist mortared one ebullient phrase atop another and swung mightily while Schnelle's solo rocketed by with a roiling logic.

Two originals by the bassist followed, the kaleidoscopic, groove-shifting "Flac," in which scenes shifted on a dime as White pounded on the rhythmic accents like he was forging a sword, and Schnelle tapped out a multidimensional solo with tiny, quiet gestures employing one brush and his fingertips. "Para-Waltz," was next, over pensive keyboard harmonies, Dresser coaxed aching ponticello textures before steering the band through one of the most gorgeous tunes he's ever written. On his solo, Dresser used his bow to evoke sonic impressions of warbled flute, violin and sobbing women in a dramatic moment of pure emotion.

Composer Andrew Hill's "Two Lullabies," featured White conjuring gentle chords while the bassist drew fat, groaning whole notes mixed with skeins of velocity in the manner of Scott LaFaro--a reference I'm surprised ended up in my notes. White stirred a lyric pot with a ladle of dissonance so skillfully that the line between the tonal and the atonal became irrelevant.

They closed the concert with one of my favorite White compositions, "The Lower Case," an angular blues with striking changes and a lightning ostinato. White exploded with hammered block-chords that traversed the history of the instrument--sounding like Red Garland channeling Cecil Taylor. Dresser kept the time elliptical--power-walking one moment--pedaling, strumming and thwacking the next--leading into a solo opportunity where all time stood still as he began in silence--building stuttering gestures that broke free of the meter while simultaneously reinforcing it.

Powerful, adventurous music that sent no one home unchanged

Photo by Richard White

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