|Review courtesy of All About Jazz:
The latest among several solo bass recordings by Mark Dresser, Unveil finds the bassist’s palette with its usual array of tools, plus an array of pickups built into the fingerboard of the bass, allowing for an even greater wealth of sounds to be made audible in both recorded and performance situations (one can assume that the bass he uses in these settings differs from that used on Elaboration and in similar settings).
Granted, the use of contact mikes is nothing new in solo bass music—Italian virtuoso Fernando Grillo in the ‘70s and Joelle Leandre’s work from the ‘80s on—but Dresser’s vocabulary seems to pick up where those players left off, into tighter rhythmic structures more microcosmic than the symphonies sounded by the former two. The title track is a movement from thick bowed harmonics to gutsy, roiling masses (bowed with a ribbed stick to simulate throat-singing), to a trio of overdubbed high, low and massed lines. The tautness of Dresser’s yanked strings is picked up perfectly, as are the traces of overtones resounding in studio air.
“Clavuus” is an intensely rhythmic vamp with one prepared string that mimics a mouth-harp in duet with the bass; “Undula” a chamber of droning arcos, the resonance adding further underpinning to the trio or quartet. Most of the pieces here are improvised snippets and extrapolations from basic ideas that become ever more layered, though the icy echoes of “Pluto” and the masterful, Ornette-like sorrows of “Bacahaonne” are compositions—the former commissioned by sculptor Robert Taplin for an exhibition of planetary pieces, the latter a notated piece based on Bach’s second violin partita.
What ties these recent works of Dresser and Robertson together is an ability to create orchestral weight out of a very few pieces, and a scope that ranges from delicately sparse to sonic whirlwind in a very short space of time. Dresser has even found ways to create a language of self-interaction, or of the bass with itself in addition to its player. To these ears, there appears to be more to “downtown” of late than structural gimmickry and overpriced beer.