Mark Dresser

Nine Songs Together

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AllMusic Review by

Although this is billed as a duo album with Mark Dresser's name listed first, Ray Anderson's trombone is the dominant voice. Anderson is one of the few trombonists who can sustain interest for a full hour, with ideas tumbling from his horn like soap bubbles from a blower. Here he is highly exposed, forced to turn inward to experiment with sounds and techniques that exploit his unique style. Anderson devotees will not be disappointed, as his usual swagger and box of tricks are in full bloom; however, they are tempered by the pull of Mark Dresser's acoustic bass, which grounds Anderson, tying him to a structure yet permitting him to soar as if he were a bird in flight. The pull of the spiritual is heard throughout, often with an insistent blues element, as exemplified explicitly on Billy Taylor's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" and Anderson's own "The Feast of Love," part of a larger work for trombone choir and gospel choir with lyrics contributed by his recently departed wife. Some might hear a more subdued and more mature Anderson than usual, as each track is no longer an opportunity, as was sometimes the case in his early years, to cram everything he can do in every improvisation. Many of the pieces, such as the serious and utterly remarkable "Taps for Jackie" (dedicated to his wife), are performed at tempos much slower than usual, and the trombonist carefully fills in the cracks and defers appropriately to Dresser, who waxes gorgeously. This is an important project for the talented Anderson, not only because it is his first recording on CD as part of a duo, but also because it shows a sophistication and evolutionary development that take him a step further than anything previously. While his trademark trills and intervallic leaps are evident, he also explores crevices that he had not always considered, in part due to the inspiration and prodding of Dresser. The best duo performances require close, even empathetic, listening between participants to avoid the sense of two performers going separate directions. The trombonist and bassist listen to each other with uncanny concentration, and although most of the pieces are not formally connected, there is a sense that they share a common thrust.

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