Tines of Change, due out May 5, 2023 via Pyroclastic Records, features custom-designed 4- and 5-string basses with fingerboard-embedded pickups and a set of metal tines that offer stunning new possibilities that Dresser vividly explores
“[Mark Dresser is] a bassist who is one of the great instrumental forces in recent American jazz outside the mainstream.” – Ben Ratliff, The New York Times
” Dresser uses the bow like Picasso used the brush: to refract and recast certain realities and to create completely new ones.” – Robert Bush, San Diego Reader
But that’s just one of the modifications that McLagan has made to translate Dresser’s sonic imaginings into reality. In 2001 he embedded hand-wound individual magnetic pickups into the fingerboard of the bass, one set below the nut and the other at the octave. These additional pickups allow Dresser to sound up to three different pitches on each string, as well as amplify subtle tones and pitches that might otherwise go unheard in a live or collaborative setting.
“I heard micro-details of the instrument when I practiced alone, that got lost once I played with others,” Dresser explains. “That led to a lot of time thinking about how I could make these exciting soft sounds louder. As a bass player, you’re relegated to what the realities of the acoustics allow. I realized that I could access the sonic details I was hearing by amplifying the bass differently.”
© Patrick Paxson
“As a young musician, it was as if I had conflicting musical agendas,” Dresser recalls. “I set out to learn how to embrace and integrate them, and make them speak to one another as a single musical identity. Ultimately everything feeds into one another. It’s all music.”
“Prolotine,” the opening track on Tines of Change, is that effort in microcosm, a polyphonic dialogue between the disparate voices of Dresser’s bass. Arco moans give way to pizzicato hammering, shimmering overtones resound from deep, echoing scrapes. “Tynalogue” plunges into the sub-audio range of the tines, resonating below the range of hearing with percussive beats that are felt deep in the body.
Each piece reveals new potentialities, profound riches unearthed from bold explorations – from the deep harmonic sonorities of “Harmonity” to the stark, crystalline elegance of “Melodine.” On “Gregoratyne” Dresser bows the tines, conjuring auroral patterns that evoke the preternatural singing of Gregorian monks. “Narratone” delves into guttural sounds that at times evoke the overtone-rich tradition of throat singing.
Though it arrives as the result of a significant period of reflection and invention, Tines of Change can’t be considered the “culmination” of Dresser’s solo explorations. As always, he continues to evolve and broaden his musical possibilities and compel open-eared listeners with previously unimagined, deeply felt invocations.
“I realized that the bass has so many different and distinct voices,” he says. “I wanted to be able to access them and make them speak to one another. What I’m trying to do with all of these techniques is expand what I hear and feel. It’s always about trying to find something that registers to me as musical and expressive and something that I want to listen to. I’m driven by the larger impulses of what is musical.”
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© Dmitry Matveev
Mark Dresser is a Grammy nominated, internationally renowned bass player, improviser, composer, and interdisciplinary collaborator. At the core of his music is an artistic obsession and commitment to expanding the sonic, musical, and expressive possibilities of the contrabass. He has recorded over 150 albums. From 1985 to 1994, he was a member of Anthony Braxton’s Quartet, which recorded nine albums and was the subject of Graham Locke’s book Forces in Motion (Da Capo). He has also performed and recorded the music of Ray Anderson, Jane Ira Bloom, Tim Berne, Anthony Davis, Dave Douglas, Osvaldo Golijov, Gerry Hemingway, Bob Ostertag, Joe Lovano, Roger Reynolds, Henry Threadgill, Dawn Upshaw, and John Zorn. Since 2007 he has been deeply involved in telematic music performance and education. He was awarded a 2015 Shifting Foundation Award and 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award. He is Distinguished Professor of Music at University of California, San Diego.
Pianist-composer Kris Davis founded Pyroclastic Records in 2016. By supporting artists in the dissemination of their work, Pyroclastic empowers emerging and established artists to continue challenging conventional genre-labeling within their fields. Pyroclastic also seeks to galvanize and grow a creative community, providing opportunities, supporting diversity and expanding the audience for noncommercial art. Its albums often feature artwork by prominent visual artists—Julian Charriére, Dike Blair, Mimi Chakarova, Jim Campbell and Raymond Pettibon among recent examples.