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Michael Dessen

Primary Instrument: Trombone

Born: 1967    

Michael Dessen

Michael Dessen is a composer-improviser who performs on the slide trombone and computer. Active in a variety of ensembles as leader or collaborator, he creates music for improvisers and engages new technologies of telepresence and digital networking. His music has been praised by critics in numerous jazz and contemporary music publications, and recorded on labels such as Clean Feed, Cuneiform, and Circumvention. Dessen's teachers include Yusef Lateef, George Lewis, and Anthony Davis, and he has also been schooled through extensive freelance experiences ranging from salsa bands to avant-garde new music ensembles...
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”Michael Dessen is, according to a frequent employer, the contrabass virtuoso Mark Dresser, 'a black-belt trombonist.' .... Dessen's music is so fresh and innovative that there are few precedents with which to compare it. He does not use chords and harmony in any traditional sense, yet there was a deep harmonic connection between the trombone and bass for every note and idea transmitted.... Despite the extended length of the suite, the audience was hardly given the chance for its attention to waver�”Dessen's music was too full of information for that to be possible.... Once sure it was over, the enthusiastic audience erupted with supportive whistles, shouts and sustained applause. A stunning example of creative, adventurous music, utterly devoid of cliché, stretching even the frontiers of free jazz beyond recognition.” - All About Jazz, Robert Bush

“A trombonist with strong roots in the acoustic tradition and a fondness for cutting edge electronic experimentation, Michael Dessen straddles the line between the avant garde and the accessible better than most.... Dessen's diverse approach towards composition encapsulates a range of moods and textures.... Incorporating a range of dynamics that veer from pneumatic funk to pointillist discourse, Between Shadow and Space is a compelling set that reveals additional layers with each listen.”
- All About Jazz, Troy Collins

“On the title track... Dessen shows his skill at wringing a voluptuous and mournful tune from his trombone; he’s clearly capable of playing some fine music with the power out. But on five out of seven tracks, he doubles on computer, mostly using it to broaden his tonal and textural palette.... Records like this show how jazz can grow in the 21st century without losing its essential interactive and rhythmic characters.”
- Dusted, Bill Meyer

“Dessen's improvisations are unhurried but very exacting, seemingly behind the beat and teasing the tempo.... The introduction of electronics does attune one's ears differently... Tordini's introduction to “Anthesis,” with its plucked glisses and slippery finger-work, seems fleshed out by phantom digital blurts, Dessen's near-swagger hitting a puckered phrase that's altered, and Sorey's cymbal wash taking on the blur of samples. It's a quality of orchestration, but not by means one traditionally thinks about �” altering one's way of hearing the instruments themselves, so that one almost pre- hears them. Suffice it to say Michael Dessen is doing a lot with a little.”
 - All About Jazz , Clifford Allen

“The trombonist has a great sense of music, very lyrical and structurally complex while giving the appearance of lightness and openness.... The great thing about [Between Shadow and Space] is not only the unbelievable precision and skills of the three musicians, but also the interesting compositional power of all tracks.... An excellent [trio] debut: fresh, creative and open.”
- Free Jazz blog, Stef Gijssels

“Dessen, hailing from the West Coast, is a fine probing player as a leader, composer and conceptualist... While time can be spent lauding his technical facility or the group's heady interplay, more attention should be given to the pieces' underlying architecture. Dessen's liner notes give explicative heft to the music�”the material draws its inspiration from sources artistic, poetic and musical�”but they can be enjoyed as cerebral musings with more than a touch of heart, art for more than art's sake.”
- All About Jazz, Andrey Henkin

“Lineal features trombonist Michael Dessen in an accessible session - accessible to readers who follow the mainstream as well as to those who prefer the leading edge.... Musically, Dessen gives the trombone a good workout, demonstrating its flexibility as well as its lyrical qualities. He communicates with a rich tone and fluent animation... Recommended, Lineal provides many surprises through a program with wide appeal.” - Cadence Magazine (Jim Santella)

“The music of Cosmologic is initiated by individual members and then doggedly worked and reworked until its internal logics are available for genuinely creative improvisation.... More than impressive.” - The Wire (Brian Morton )

“[Lineal is] some terrific music, mostly hard-hitting and groove-based but quite varied...” - Exclaim (Nate Dorward)

“The eight tracks on Lineal are intricate affairs, packed with detail and referencing a wide range of traditions and developments in contemporary jazz. In fact, they're so packed with detail that listening to the whole album in one go is quite a challenge, but a highly enjoyable one.” - Paris Transatlantic (Dan Warburton)

“III (by Cosmologic) doesn't so much stand as a document of the history of jazz as a brochure for the infinite varieties of modern improvisation.... Incredibly rewarding... Sure, it takes a little work but, for every cerebral exercise the listener is required to work through, there's a funky-as-all-hell payoff.” - One Final Note (Daniel Spicer)

“Just like the name of the album, Lineal, the musical outburst of ingenious creativity is straight, to the point, and not in any way watered down by dispensable shenanigans... The music is clean and almost maiden-like in its truth, while never being ensnared by common places or naïve imitation.” - Tokafi (Fred Wheeler)

“Dessen thrusts himself into the music with vigor, and plays with a growling, nervy style...” - Cadence Magazine (Frank Rubolino)

“Dessen is a clean, ultramodern soloist whose execution, while far from gutbucket, doesn't preclude emotion.” - Jazz Weekly (Ken Waxman)

  • Resonating Abstractions

    Clean Feed Records
    2014
  • Forget The Pixel

    Clean Feed Records
    2011
  • Between Shadow and Space

    Clean Feed Records
    2008

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Featured recording “Resonating Abstractions”

Resonating Abstractions
Clean Feed Records (2014)

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