Trio M @ An Die Musik, Baltimore, MD
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Myra Melford: piano
Mark Dresser: bass
Matt Wilson: drums
This is not the first time I've had the pleasure of taking in one of the greatest piano trios of all time. Many qualities of this trio sound have developed and the playful interaction between stellar improvisers have only improved since their jaw-dropping performance at the Guelph Jazz Festival. The spell they cast upon a room full of ears is consistent as the smaller venue of An Die Musik allowed the energy to crackle with a little more spark. And from my angle I managed to get a good look at how Mark Dresser pulls off that beastly sound with his unique amplification system.
Wedged well beneath the fingerboard is a device that powers two pick-up microphones. With two cables running down to the floor and into a pair of volume pedals Dresser uses to dynamically shape his tone by balancing between two very different microphone positions on the same instrument. The right pedal is the standard, amplified acoustic bass sound. The pedal on the left is used to unleash the inner-throat singing imp lurking somewhere high up the fingerboard. Throwing that second pedal all the way up opens up a whole world of sonority found along the neck of that instrument. The range of sound that Mark Dresser is mining is fiendishly cool.
With Myra Melford and Matt Wilson this trio is filled out by improvisers with a developed vocabulary and similarly expansive range of sound. Myra Melford's technique inside the piano is a natural extension of the sound she gets from the keyboard. And Matt Wilson works with an exponential combination of sticks/brushes/bare hands on surfaces (not to mention his joy filled laughter and utterances) to keep the percussive texture varied.
Beyond the timbral and textural range is the broad compositional and improvisative territory covered by the music itself. With contributions from the considerable oeuvres of these individual players the music took turns at focused melodism, free improvisation, blues and various conventional forms stretched with odd meters and creative explorations. Even Mark Dresser's on stage (and mid-piece) replacement of a broken bass string (the E-string no less, I've never seen anyone break one of those before) took on the same performative spirit as a fearless forward push filled with confidence in the face of uncertainty.