Mark Dresser provides detailed liner notes for the seven compositions on Nourishments. They explain the origins of the pieces as well as the details of the structures, and make an interesting companion to this expansive music. But even with a close examination, it’s possible to mistake a 17/16 ostinato (!) for a free section; in the end, it’s better to just listen closely, because one doesn’t have to completely understand this music to get absorbed in its power.
Following a series of solo bass CDs, Dresser has assembled a “conventional” quintet of unconventional and individualistic players: trombonist Michael Dessen, alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, pianist Denman Maroney and alternating drummers Tom Rainey and Michael Sarin. All bring strong personalities to the performances as well as an understanding of Dresser’s approach, since all have worked extensively with him. Maroney’s instrumental credit—“hyperpiano”—includes his skilled work inside the 88s, plucking the strings to evoke the sounds of a gamelan.
But he also lays down chords when needed. Mahanthappa and Dessen often play over each other, knotting up the music without making it too busy. Finally, there’s the leader himself, whose bowed solos frequently act as interludes between sections, leading from an unhinged mood into something more pensive. He has the graceful ability to create everything from vocal harmonic scrapes to rich, cello-like tones, making sure that the forward motion of each lengthy piece never dips. Nourishments is a perfect combination of strong writing and unique musicianship, and for that reason it should not be overlooked.