By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Mark Dresser has an experimentalist's imagination and a realist's restraint. A bassist who got his start in the early '70s working with the San Diego Symphony before heading to NYC to join the Anthony Braxton Quartet, Dresser, like many fringe Apple players at the time, ended up in the Knitting Factory clique, falling in with Tim Berne, Dave Douglas, Tom Cora, Ikue Mori and John Zorn, among others. With them, he helped stretch the boundaries of, and helped reconfigure, downtown jazz. He's worked with a virtual who's-who of experimental acoustic music: Eugene Chadbourne, Laurie Anderson, Ellery Eskelin, Joe Lovano, Bob Ostertag, Ray Anderson and others.
These days, Dresser, who appears at Webster University with his trio (Denman Maroney on "hyperpiano" -- we have no idea, either -- and Matthias Ziegler on multiple flutes), creates music that exists in a netherworld; it's not your father's jazz, nor his classical or rock, music. He's as likely to scrape his bass with a bow or strum it as he is to pluck it, and he seems just as happy making music in an open, unstructured landscape as he is within the relatively tight constraints of post-bop.
Because he's appeared in so many contexts and recordings, he's a tough nut to crack. But a glimpse of his inspiration can be found in a few brilliant contexts: on John Zorn's amazing Bar Kokhba, a radical interpretation of traditional Jewish music -- and one of the most challenging and inspired recordings of the '90s; Dresser's Marinade (Tzadik), a whirlwind, open-ended collection of his own compositions that showcases his work on the contrabass; and his trio's brand-new Aquifer, which offers the best glimpse of what's to come at the Webster performance.
At said performance, the Mark Dresser Trio will perform music beneath three short films: Luis Buuel and Salvador Dali's landmark surrealist exercise Un Chien Andalou; the Kunst Brothers' abstract Subtonium, an understated, subtle vision that floats with images of starfish, gravel roads, angel-devils and thick forests; and Chronicles of an Asthmatic Stripper, a world-premiere animation collaboration between director Sarah Jane Lapp and Dresser. Given the scarcity of avant-jazz in this city, and the lack of a viable venue in which to present it, this may be the only chance to witness Mark Dresser perform in St. Louis. Don't blow it.