I have more time to study, practice, and play the bass - interview with Mark Dresser

Piotr Wojdat
Autor zdjęcia: 
mat. promocyjne

Calling contrabassist Mark Dresser a virtuoso is like saying Albert Einstein was good at math said about him San Diego City Times. One of his rescent project released on CD is Deep Resonance recoreded with great Arcado String Trio and marvelous saxophonist Ivo Pereleman. Now we have an inerview with this astonishing musician.


What do you miss the most when you can't play concerts?

Mark Dresser: I miss most the joy of making music with other musicians for live audiences in real time. Also the process of  rehearsal with others, developing new music collectively. I also miss interacting with students.

For what have you found time during lockdown?

MD: More time to study, practice, and play the bass, certainly has been a bonus, as well as more  time to practice chi, which I've been practicing for 40 years. More meals together with my wife and family in general.


For a long time you were a member of Anthony's Braxton Quartet. Was it an important part of your musical life?

MD: It was a very significant part of my musical life. For nine years.  Playing the music of the great Anthony Braxton, being a part of his quartet with Marilyn Crispell and Gerry Hemingway gave me an unprecedented opportunity. It built upon my decade-long musical relationship with Gerry Hemingway. As a quartet we explored a special way of moving dimensionally between improvising solistically and collectively, working independently and in different duo configurations, using the immense repertoire of Anthony's as the primary music well as the potential to use any of the other scores as a collage potential. 

Anthony is an amazingly empowering bandleader who both gave me maximum responsibility as well as maximum creative agency.

What do you like the most about Anthony Braxton? How he inspired you?

MD: I love Anthony's seriousness of purpose, his commitment to a dynamic sense of music principles based on spiritual principles. He is a real genius, a brilliant and dimensional mind with a tremendous sense of irony and humor. But I most admire his courage. He has always been transparent, honest, and enthusiastic about those musicians whom he loves, is influenced by, and those musicians he wanted to play with,  having no concern of how it was perceived by the outside world. In the early late 70's for a Black musician of Braxton's stature to openly embrace not only his love of the African American master along with his  admiration John Phillip Sousa, Paul Desmond, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, to Franky Lymon, for example, was perceived by the critical press and even others in the musician community as culturally blasphemous. He paid dearly for his views, was ostracized, which economically negatively impacted his life but he never flinched nor changed his views or approach because of pressure.

What is telematic music performance? Could you give some examples of this kind of performance?

MD: Telematic music performance is a subset of network music, in which musicians in different geographical locations perform live together with low latency in high definition sound and video, for multiple live audiences utilizing fiber optic networks. It is a practice that I've been deeply involved in since 2007. I became involved for similar reasons as musicians today are performing on Zoom. I was introduced to this medium vial composer explorer Pauline Oliveros and computer music researcher Chris Chafe, the developer of JackTrip,the open source platform that to this day remains the standard for the best quality sound with lowest latency.

Up until recently these high bandwidth wired networks have only been accessible to universities and research institutions not to the general public. Telematic is the precursor to the musically less optimal but user friendly Zoom platform which we've seen so much of since the Covid 19 virus.   

Here are two examples of our concerts. This first example is most recent one, performed between San Diego and Seoul at 6000 miles distance, just as the Covid virus had begun to arrive in Korea. Changing Tides II A Telematic Translocational Concert, Feb 13/14, 2020,

Second is a concert from 2011 with Michael Dessen at UC Irvine  and Myra Melford and I at UC San Diego at 70 miles distance utilizing Jacktrip audio, and Ultragrid video Telemotions: A Network Intermedia Concert-2011 There is no perceivable latency in audio or video.

I've heard that there is a record coming soon, which will be released by Listen Foundation! What kind of record it will be?

MD: Yes saxophonist/painter Ivo Perelman invited violinist Mark Feldman, cellist Hank Roberts and I to the studio for an afternoon of free improvisation.. Mark, Hank and I had performed together for years as the string trio, Arcado. It was a special occasion as it was the first time that the trio had played all together since the 90's.

How do you felt playing with Arcado Trio after such a long hiatus?

MD: It was magical for me to play with Mark and Hank again. We had so much shared language from those years and ways of listening and interaction that we could easily tap into. We had all gone in different directions in our careers and on several occasions we had tried to come together to play but it had never worked out for various reasons. I believe only Ivo could have brought us together. Kudos to Ivo.

What kind of musician and person is Ivo Perelman? Have you done any special preparations for sessions with him?

MD: Ivo's a charming guy and very musical person on any of his instruments He's a dual career as a successful painter which I believe is his primary career. I respect that he's prolifically recorded himself in different contexts not unlike the Arcado project. I had only one other recording experience with him in 2003, a double drum and bass recording. Other than that I don't recall having ever toured with nor had I played with him since 2003. So it was a nice surprise to be invited to make this recording. Whatever special preparations I made were to sound my best for Mark and Hank as we've these shared "string" values.

What are your plans for the near future?

MD: While still in isolation, I'm  focusing primarily on a new solo recording and bass book. I have a duo with my long time collaborator and friend Michael Dessen that we'll record telematically. Also just finished mixing a new recording with Jones Jones, the collective with saxophonist Larry Ochs and drummer Vladimir Tarasov.

Once things open up I'll  hopefully be able to return to picking up with the tours cancelled since Spring, a couple of European concerts and US concerts with my septet featuring Nicole Mitchell, Marty Ehrlich, Michael Dessen, Joshua White, Keir GoGwilt and Jim Black. Also a tour with the great Anthony Davis, and more!