“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
“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, Stuart Broomer
Fluidly melding intricate composition, radically open improvisation and otherworldly electronic soundscapes, 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. Dessen’s trio music is designed for immersive, interactive performances: Elusive compositional structures shape the music, but unfold organically to feature the individual voice of each performer.
At the core of this approach is the telepathic connection Dessen has cultivated over the past decade with his trio bandmates Christopher Tordini (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums), two of the most in-demand virtuosos on the New York City jazz scene. 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 the band but never overwhelm its acoustic foundation. As Bill Meyer wrote for Downbeat magazine, “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.”
Since its founding in 2005, Dessen has released four trio albums on Clean Feed Records. All consist of original compositions, many inspired by poetry, visual art, or current events, but always refracted through Dessen’s compositional lens and the band’s unique artistry. The most recent trio CD, Somewhere In The Upstream (2018), is a concert-length work dedicated to Yusef Lateef, Dessen’s former teacher, that takes the form of a “scorestream” in which notations are displayed on screens for the improvisers to interpret, shifting unpredictably for each performance.