Chris Dahlgren

Best Intentions

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For acoustic bassist Dahlgren, this CD establishes his sound as a modern progressive jazz composer, and his concept for leading a band, though certainly not the only earmark on his (so-far) diverse career. Two alto saxophonists, Rob Brown and Peter Epstein, and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi give the leader a basis to improvise heartily, yet he prefers to write music for the horns, giving them communal or interactive charts while he and Takeishi splash colors and rhythmic variances into a bottomless-well-type mix. At times, Dahlgren's bass attains a rattling, mbira-like overtone. It's most evident on the South African funk "The Gadfly," flavored with soulful-edged saxes and sharp-tinged, depth-charged tom-tom and tympani-like bongings from Takeishi, not to mention the 6/8 ostinato of "The Wanderers," steady and "Caravan"-derived in its processional persistence. The saxophonists participate in chattery, clipped counterpoint with stealthy underpinnings and a two-note bass motif during "The Hypnotist"; deal in more diffuse and spatial dourness before Takeishi's doubled, crossed blast wakes them up on the second half of "Triptych #2"; and lead with spare, spooky lines for the first half of "The Angels of Hartwell" before sliding into a delightful reggae beat, in which they find common ground to really work out. Dahlgren's most image-laden piece is "Fourth Avenue Passacaglia" -- sad march drums lead to deathly looming bass, as the two saxophonists bring the prisoner forth for the reckoning. Long-held, languid sax tones allow the bassist to stretch his own dramatic noir lines. Then there's "Matson," in free time initially, with choppy percussion and bowed bass serving notice to reverent, almost apologetic horns leading to an intense climactic crescendo, and a calming decrescendo that fades into nothingness to end the program. All in all, an intriguing recording that commands attention and gives a taste of what Dahlgren will be bringing us. If this is indeed a start, it's an auspicious one.

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