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Dessen, Michael Trio: Somewhere In The Upstream (Clean Feed)

Blending the acoustic aspects of his regularly performing trio with unusual electronics, trombonist Michael Dessen's NY trio with bassist Christopher Tordini and drummer Dan Weiss carve out a unique territory that balances lyrical, aggressive, and swinging aspects of free jazz with other-worldly interactions, in an album honoring late saxophonist Yusef Lateef.

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product information:

UPC: 5609063004618

Label: Clean Feed
Catalog ID: CF461CD
Squidco Product Code: 25361

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2018
Country: Portugal
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at Systems Two in Brooklyn on June 6, 2016, by Max Ross.


Michael Dessen-trombone, computer

Christopher Tordini-bass

Dan Weiss-drums

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track listing:

1. Part 1 7:07

2. Part 2 2:55

3. Part 3 7:20

4. Part 4 6:24

5. Part 5 3:37

6. Part 6 6:19

7. Part 7 6:17

8. Part 8 10:05

Related Categories of Interest:

Clean Feed
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Electro-Acoustic Improv
Trio Recordings
NY Downtown & Jazz/Improv
New in Improvised Music
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descriptions, reviews, &c.

"Praised as a "musician for this moment" (Downbeat) for his imaginative work with music technology, trombonist Michael Dessen culminates over a decade with his electro-acoustic trio in this fourth Clean Feed release, an homage to the late Yusef Lateef. After studying with Lateef for several years and making his debut as an improviser on one of Lateef's albums in 1996, Dessen has since carved his own individual path through jazz and contemporary music worlds, acclaimed both for his "black belt" trombone playing (praise from close collaborator Mark Dresser) as well as for his unique work as a composer-bandleader that "straddles the line between the avant garde and the accessible better than most" (All About Jazz).

Here Dessen honors Lateef's memory with Somewhere In The Upstream, a longform "scorestream" in which notations are displayed on screens for the improvisers to interpret, shifting unpredictably for each performance. Fluidly melding intricate composition, radically open group improvisation and otherworldly live electronic soundworlds, the music of the Michael Dessen Trio has been recognized with major awards and commissions from Chamber Music America, the Fromm Foundation, and New Music USA. This album distills the core qualities that critics have praised in the band's music over their previous three releases: Compositional structures deeply shape the music but at the same time are always elusive, abstracted by the band in such a way that the focus remains on the organically unfolding interactions among the improvisers and the incredibly wide-ranging expressive dynamics of an entire set.

Dessen wrote this music specifically for his longstanding trio members, virtuoso improvisers Chris Tordini (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums), and the album was recorded in a single take to capture the immersive feel and powerful chemistry that the band is known for in their live performances. Tordini deftly grounds the music's kaleidoscopic polyrhythms and constantly surprises the listener with endless gradient explorations of sound, and Weiss similarly combines a broad timbral palette with his renowned rhythmic sensibilities. Dessen completes the trio with his own playing on both trombone and computer, using live processing and sampling in ways that complement but never overwhelm the band's acoustic foundation.

Combining the band's live aesthetic with extraordinary recording quality and a heightened attention to sonic detail that will reward repeated listening, Somewhere In The Upstream is a singular compositional achievement by one of the truly original bands of our time."-Clean Feed

"I started this trio in 2003 to create music that blends intricate composition, open improvisation and live electronics. I compose the music and perform on trombone and computer, joined by my incredible collaborators Christopher Tordini (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums).

This band is all about the live concert: I compose many acoustic and electronic materials, but we bring them to life in a highly open way, making each performance unique. "-Michael Dessen

"Yusef Abdul Lateef (born William Emanuel Huddleston; October 9, 1920 - December 23, 2013) was an American jazz multi-instrumentalist, composer and prominent figure among the Ahmadiyya Community in America, in 1950.

Although Lateef's main instruments were the tenor saxophone and flute, he also played oboe and bassoon, both rare in jazz, and also used a number of non-western instruments such as the bamboo flute, shanai, shofar, xun, arghul and koto. He is known for having been an innovator in the blending of jazz with "Eastern" music. Peter Keepnews, in his New York Times obituary of Lateef, wrote that the musician "played world music before world music had a name."

Lateef wrote and published a number of books including two novellas entitled A Night in the Garden of Love and Another Avenue, the short story collections Spheres and Rain Shapes, also his autobiography, The Gentle Giant, written in collaboration with Herb Boyd.[3] Along with his record label YAL Records, Lateef owned Fana Music, a music publishing company. Lateef published his own work through Fana, which includes Yusef Lateef's Flute Book of the Blues and many of his own orchestral compositions."-Wikipedia

Artist Biographies:

Michael Dessen is a composer/trombonist who creates music for improvisers and explores the artistic potentials of technologies including live electronics, telematics and networked scores.

Dessen's electro-acoustic trio features bassist Christopher Tordini and drummer Dan Weiss, and has been praised by critics for its unique blend of otherworldly electronics, dynamic improvisation and wide-ranging compositions. His compositions for the trio have been supported by awards and commissions from New Music USA, Chamber Music America and the Fromm Foundation, and he has released three trio albums on Clean Feed Records, the first featuring Tyshawn Sorey on drums. Dessen's most recent work for the trio, Somewhere In The Upstream (2014), is a concert-length composition dedicated to Yusef Lateef that will be released in 2017.

Both with his own trio and many other collective projects, Dessen has focused on creating works for improvisers, including networked "scorestreams" that are displayed dynamically on screens for performers to interpret. As an improviser, he collaborates with diverse bands in addition to performing solo on digibone, an animistic world of slide trombone and live electronics. Dessen has also been involved in numerous telematic concerts that link performers in distant locations via high-definition networking technologies. He has composed new works specifically for the telematic stage, and has co-directed many large-scale telematic projects, including Virtual Tour 2013, a 3-concert series recently released on DVD that Dessen co-directed with Mark Dresser, featuring a core quartet in California with Nicole Mitchell and Myra Melford performing with other renowned musicians in Zurich, New York and Massachusetts.

Dessen's teachers include Yusef Lateef, George Lewis, and Anthony Davis, and he is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music (BM performance), the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (MM jazz composition), and the University of California, San Diego (PhD in Music, Critical Studies and Experimental Practices). His writings on music include articles in The Other Side of Nowhere: Jazz, Improvisation and Communities in Dialogue (Wesleyan University Press), the online journal Critical Studies in Improvisation / Etudes Critique en Improvisation, and Musicworks magazine, as well as a Preface to Yusef Lateef's Songbook. His publications have focused especially on the role of African American traditions within late-twentieth century experimental music worlds. Since 2006, Dessen has been a faculty member at the University of California, Irvine, where he co-founded a new PhD program in Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology (ICIT).

Michael Dessen lives in southern California with visual artist Mariángeles Soto-Díaz and their son.

-Michael Dessen Website (

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