Dresser Quintet in New Haven to Feature Saxophonist Mahanthappa

Dec 11, 2013

Rudresh Mahanthappa performs Friday with bassist Mark Dresser as part of a quintet at Firehouse 12.
Credit Rudresh Mahanthappa/Ted Walton / Rudresh Mahanthappa/Mark Dresser

Mark Dresser, a noted bassist who tirelessly expands and hones his cutting-edge approach to improvising and composing, leads his creative music quintet in performances at 8:30 and 10:00 pm Friday, December 13, in the grand finale for the 2013 Fall Jazz Series at Firehouse 12, 45 Crown Street in New Haven.

Although the quintet format might appear a bit conventional for a most unconventional bandleader, Dresser’s strategy is to extend the familiar into challenging, new territory through a synthesis of his audacious writing and the freewheeling improvisations of his collaborative quintet. 

As one of the evening’s bonuses for the Firehouse faithful, Dresser’s quintet features the great Indian-American saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa. Riding a triumphant note at their New Haven gig, Dresser, Mahanthappa, and fellow band members -- pianist Denman Maroney, trombonist Michael Dessen, and drummer Michael Sarin -- will be celebrating the release of their new album, Nourishments (Clean Feed Records), which is already feasting on abundant critical praise.

A bassist of choice for new music luminaries, ranging from Ray Anderson to John Zorn, Dresser was a member of the Anthony Braxton Quartet from 1985 to 1994 that recorded nine CDs, and was chronicled in Graham Lock’s book, Forces in Motion (Da Capo Press).

Among his many diverse projects, Dresser has composed and performed special music for such silent film classics as the 1929 French surrealist masterpiece Un Chien Andalou (the mind-shattering Luis Bunuel/Salvador Dali collaboration perhaps best remembered for its gruesome image of a razor slicing through a woman’s eyeball), as well as the iconic 1920 German expressionist horror film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

On the high-tech side of his artistic palette, Dresser has collaborated in the presentation of live international performances linked between multiple locations through high-speed Internet connections. As an example of these “telematics performances,” he was a coordinator, composer, performer and conductor of “Deep Tones for Peace,” a 2009 international performance on the Internet featuring 13 bassists collaborating live and simultaneously between Jerusalem and New York City.

Dresser has performed previously at Firehouse 12 with his signature collaborative groups, Trio M (with Myra Melford and Matt Wilson), as well as with his Mauger Trio, featuring Mahanthappa and Gerry Hemingway, and with the celebrated soprano saxophonist/composer, Jane Ira Bloom. Tickets: $18, first set; $12, second set. Information: firehouse12.com or (203) 785-0468.

Stephen Haynes.
Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

Celebrating Spontaneity

Ingrid Laubrock.
Credit Lydia Polzer

Ingrid Laubrock, an award-winning, German-born saxophonist, will mix it up in a freewheeling, totally extemporaneous session with guitarist/bassist Joe Morris and cornetist/trumpeter Stephen Haynes at 7:00 pm Thursday, December 12, in the Improvisations series at Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor Street in Hartford.

Morris and Haynes, two well-known practitioners of creative music, do double duty as the series’ curators as well as collaborators with their special guests, improvising new and original work right on the spot.

Since her first solo album Who Is It? was released in 1998, Laubrock has led her own bands and performed and recorded with such celebrated new music figures as Anthony Braxton, Dave Douglas and Evan Parker, among many others.

Along with creating music in the moment, the point of the series is to provide an intimate, relaxed setting for listeners, perhaps even offering a remedy to chronic sufferers of avant garde phobia. You can experience the music up close as it unfurls, as well as enjoy the rare opportunity to speak directly to the performers about the art of improvisation. Colloquies are sure to be as cool as the solos are hot. Tickets: $15, general public; $12, RAW members. Information: realartways.org or (860) 232-1006.

Trombonist Steve Davis with Dezron Douglas.
Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

Steve Davis, a globe-trotting trombonist who lives in West Hartford, and a handful of his hip helpers host a “Holiday Jazz Party” at 8:00 pm Monday, December 16, at Black-Eyed Sally’s, 350 Asylum Street in Hartford.

Adding an all-in-the-family flavor to the joyful jazz festivities, the band features the noted trombonist/educator’s guitar-playing son Tony Davis. Also joining in the celebration in syncopation are vocalist Linda Ransom, pianist Don DePalma, bassist Matt Dwonszyk, and drummer Jonathan Barber. The weekly Monday night jazz sessions at the downtown nightspot are co-presented by Charter Oak Cultural Center and the Hartford Jazz Society. Information: (860) 278-7427.

Karrin Allyson.
Credit Karrin Allyson

Vocalist Karrin Allyson, a fine and mellow interpreter of songs, celebrates the holiday season along with the release of her new, self-produced album, Yuletide Hideaway, as she performs with friends at 7:00 pm Saturday, December 14, at the Unitarian Society of Northampton, 220 Main Street in Northampton, Massachusetts. There’s much for Allyson, a four-time Grammy nominee, to celebrate, particularly since Downbeat magazine has already decorated her yuletide disc with a shiny, four-star rating.

Allyson will sing holiday tunes, old and new, plus original songs from Yuletide Hideaway. Among her holiday helpers are the noted drummer Claire Arenius, Bob Ferrier, and Wayne Roberts, plus the Valley Jazz Divas, a vocal group whose non-seasonal fare features bebop and secular standards. Tickets: $25 at brownpapertickets.com or at the door. Information: (413) 519-3654.

Double Diva Delights

Dianne Mower
Credit The Real Ambassadors

Although her roots are nestled deep in modern jazz, diva Dianne Mower loves to leap over pop genre boundaries in a single bound, shaking up her repertoire and surprising her fans by gleefully putting her original stamp on everything from Broadway show tunes to gospel and traditional jazz grooves.

Revealing yet another facet of her all-embracing versatility, the Hartford-based singer, who has played throughout New England and in New York City, presents a tribute to her idol, Bonnie Raitt, at 7:30 pm Friday, December 13, at Cheney Hall, 177 Hartford Road in Manchester.

Colin McEnroe, host of WNPR's Colin McEnroe Show and weekly columnist and blogger for The Hartford Courant, will be master of ceremonies, and may even be persuaded by Mower to sing a song or two. The first-rate Raitt homage also features a Mower power squad of backup players: guitarist and longtime collaborator Norman Johnson, Don Wallace, bass; Arti Dixson, drums; Chris Casey, keyboards; special guest Matt DeChamplain, acoustic piano; and supporting vocalists, Chris Larsen-Nelson, and Paul Aherne. Tickets: $50, VIP includes a post-concert reception with the performers; $25, general seating. Information: cheneyhall.org or (860) 647-9824.

Dana Lauren.
Credit Dana Lauren

You can double your diva delights the next night by catching up with the rising, young singer Dana Lauren at 8:00 pm Saturday, December 14, in the jazz and cabaret series at Japanalia Eiko, 11 Whitney Street, Hartford. A sophisticated, sultry stylist who demonstrates maturity and savoir faire at the mic far beyond her years, Lauren is backed by pianist Sam Parker, bassist Alex Tremblay and drummer Jonathan Barber. Admission: $48, stage-side table seating; $28, general row seating; BYOB encouraged. Reservations: (860) 232-4677.

Piano Madness

Old Lyme’s swinging Sidedoor Jazz Club continuously maintains an up-tempo schedule crackling with an array of high-quality performers. But this weekend, the club even outdoes itself with sheer piano madness and gladness served by the keyboard kingpins, Bruce Barth on Friday, December 13, and Kevin Hays on Saturday, December 14. It promises to be two nights of robust, fluent piano playing in hard-swinging, expressive and interactive chamber jazz settings.

Barth’s backup features the fine vibraphonist Steve Nelson, bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Montez Coleman. Hays blazes away with his sidekicks, bassist Rob Jost and drummer Greg Joseph. The new shoreline jazz spa is at 85 Lyme Street in Old Lyme. Admission: Barth Quartet, $25; Hays Trio, $25. Doors open at 7:30 pm. Showtime: 8:30 pm. Information: thesidedoorjazz.com or (860) 434-0886.

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