“In an era where technology erases old truths about our world at a blistering pace, Michael Dessen is a musician for this moment…” Downbeat player profile by Joe Tangari, June 2014 issue. Read full text…
“… Dessen’s music is so fresh and innovative that there are few precedents with which to compare it…. 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. Review of Michael Dessen Trio at Smith Hall, UC Irvine, 5/7/11. Full review…
“Other than his formidable technique and soulful harmonic sense, Dessen’s claim to power is his use of computer-modulated electronics…. What made the performance all the more fascinating, however, is how much Dessen personalized the sounds to the trio, making the computer an active, living participant and an instrument unto itself.”
– Feast of Music, Dan Lehner. Review of Michael Dessen Trio at Shapeshifter Lab, Brooklyn, 11/27/12]. Full review…
“George Lewis has played slide trombone and electronics with equal facility, and his former student Michael Dessen makes the two instruments work as one on Forget The Pixel. Dessen switches between voluptuous lyricism and digitally distorted splatter, and his shifts between those poles never feel forced or arbitrary. This is the trio’s second album, and it sounds like the work of a gigging band. How much of this work took place with all three men in the same room is open to conjecture. Dessen lives and teaches in Irvine, California, a continent away from his New York-based confederates, but he is a pioneer in telematics, the practice of long-distance, real-time collaboration. But whether their chemistry was forged with the assistance of bandwidth or frequent flyer miles, it’s real….These guys don’t just play together—they’re playing. This playfulness, as much as their fluid negotiations of Dessen’s jagged rhythms and elaborate melodies, is the spoonful of sugar that make these rigorous improvisations go down easy.”
– Downbeat, Oct 2011, Bill Meyer. Review of Forget The Pixel by the Michael Dessen Trio.
“… Dessen appropriately combines brilliant trombone skills with interests in electronics and novel compositional strategies…. The end result is a remarkable achievement. If the timbral possibilities of a trombone-bass-drum band might seem limited, Dessen varies things with electronics and the trio maintains constant interest through a multi-leveled interaction of compositional methodologies, collective improvisation and polyrhythmic exploration. It’s fascinating work by an exceptional group of musicians, at times combining the cheery openness of song with a sense of underlying tectonic mystery.”
– New York City Jazz Record (May, 2012), Stuart Broomer. Review of Forget The Pixel by the Michael Dessen Trio.
“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…. 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. Full review…. Review of Between Shadow and Space, by the Michael Dessen Trio.
“Between Shadow and Space represents a different facet of his work from Cosmologic or his excellent debut Lineal (Circumvention 2007) since Dessen makes substantial use of laptop electronics throughout. The results are fantastically subtle, imaginative extensions of his trombone’s sound – feathery rufflings, pixelized halos, teasing curlicues and rasps – and he mercifully avoids the bleep-bloop cliches that sink a lot of similar projects. The title track is one of the CD’s few purely acoustic pieces, and it’s a killer: a funky elongated groove sliced-through with silences and repetitions, the effect being a kind of mournful stillness-in-movement. “Restless Years” and “Anthesis” similarly touch on the kind of metrical intricacy that Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa have made their own in recent years, and the presence of their frequent companion Tyshawn Sorey on drums cements the connection. Dessen’s music, though, has a more ambiguous flavor, the players drawing back from the groove as often as they seize on it, even if both tracks end with triumphant intensity. Another side of Dessen’s aesthetic is represented by the enigmatic multisectioned pieces “Chocolate Geometry” and “Granulorum,” whose dreamy structures are full of irrational climaxes and moments of secretive self-communion. The disc is completed by a stealthy Dessen/Sorey free improv and a memorial for Alice Coltrane, whose drizzling, swarming electronics suggest a light streaming out of a stained-glass window. Aside from the fine work by Sorey and the leader, bassist Christopher Tordini brings fine rhythmic flair and emotional undertow to the music – listen, in particular, to the way “Anthesis” unfurls note by note out of his rich double-stopped introduction.”
– Signal To Noise, Nate Dorward. Review of Between Shadow and Space, by the Michael Dessen Trio.
“Michael Dessen is a slide-trombone virtuoso and computer musician of the highest order, and the music his trio crafts on Resonating Abstractions showcases his work as a composer in compelling fashion….” – All About Jazz, Robert Bush. Review of Resonating Abstractions (Clean Feed Records, 2014) Full review…
Concert preview feature articles for Virtual Tour 2013:
“Music Made Miles Apart,” by Angela Carone, KPBS (print and radio feature)
“Virtual concert tour a first,” by George Varga, San Diego Union Tribune
“Telematic Music: Musicians perform together ‘live’ from opposite coasts,” by Steve Pfarrer, Hampshire Gazette