Thursday, October 25, 2018

Album liner notes: Jesse Dulman Quartet

Jesse Dulman Quartet 

Downtown Music Gallery, Oct 7, 2018

Album liner notes

Jesse Dulman Quartet, Downtown Music Gallery (photo by John Pietaro)

A certain pall, a lucid grayness, fell over Downtown Music Gallery on the occasion of October 7, 2018. Earlier in the week, word had spread of the tragic passing of Mike Panico, a comrade of the downtown sound and veritable brother to so many of its artists. Brief hours before, many in the room had been at Mike’s funeral, so his memory lingered viscerally amidst the racks and aisles at 13 Monroe Street. The Jesse Dulman Quartet, an aggregation boasting saxophonic monsters Ras Moshe Burnett and Dave Sewelson, along with rising young lion Leonid Galaginov on drums, was set to record a live album in this hallowed new music ground. New Dulman compositions and adaptations of older works were slated for this disc, but upon learning of the loss, the leader deemed the evening a tribute; in the hours leading up to the gig, Jesse conjured a series of themes most appropriate to both Panico’s memory and the kind of free improvisation he loved.

Fittingly, the concert opened with heartfelt words from Bruce Gallanter, the owner of Downtown Music Gallery, who referred to Panico as a best friend over many years. “I was having brunch with him just the other day”, he said tearfully, “I don’t know how this could have happened”. Gallanter listed Panico’s many credits and attributes, offering his legend to the moved crowd. And then brought on the Jesse Dulman Quartet. The four stood tacitly as the opening strains of “Serenity” were stated in solo by Dulman. It’s rare that an instrument like the tuba, Jesse’s ax of choice, can emote so gently, so mournfully, but in this work, it painted the aural portrait of a friend finally at rest. And just as soon as he sounded the call for lament, Dulman embarked on a battle cry as the theme varied into a throbbing rumble, a trumpeting of emotion.

Throughout the performance, each of the four artists on stage demonstrated vision and sound, alternately bringing melodic phrases to the fore and erupting into primal screams as the moment, and the music, deemed necessary. Dave Sewelson and his formidable length of bristly beard have been staples on this scene since 1977. The baritone saxophonist is a veteran of the Microscopic Septet, Mofungo, William Parker’s Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra, and notable bands of Jemeel Moondoc, Sunny Murray, Billy Bang, Roy Campbell and a long list of others. In this band, his horn’s lower end serves as a proponent of Dulman’s own lines, creating biting cross-rhythms and gripping contrapuntal forays when not shrieking overdrive, bellowing sub-tones or simply taking flight in his inimitable fashion. In Dave’s hands, the bari is agile as a 90-pound barefoot dancer, even as it pummels the infernal range he revels in.

Likewise, Ras Moshe Burnett whose own astral leaps and bounds are consistently fluid and constantly creative. The native Brooklynite’s resume reads like a Downtown Who’s Who, his tenor and soprano saxophones a fixture on most every bandstand beneath 14th Street. Ras’ means of channeling forbears, particularly Coltrane among a phalanx of revolutionary forces, never compromises his unique voice, rapid-fire composing or probing musicality. In fact, the amalgam of political and artistic radicals informing Moshe are quite the singular combination. 
Young drummer Leonid Galaginov has been on the scene but several scant years, after relocating to New York from Estonia. However, he arrived brandishing both an inborn rhythmic gift and wise tutelage from an American jazz musicians in Eastern Europe. Perhaps his greatest asset—beyond the obvious impeccable technique, taste and swing--is his utter championing of dynamics, from a hushed whisper to an explosion.

And so, we arrive at the band leader, Jesse Dulman, who stands among the tuba players of the so-called avant garde. Wait, you’d thought this instrument had been replaced by the string bass in jazz long ago, didn’t you? But as the music grew freer in the 1960s, listeners recognized that in many ways it harkened back to the roots, collective improvisation. And with that, several prominent leaders began to look closer at some of the instruments that had fallen with the years, not the least of which was the tuba. It remains distinct but far from an anomaly. Jesse’s recording debut in 1999 brought him to the attention of Kalaprush Maurice McIntyre, another giant of the music whose demise came far too early. Jesse became a mainstay of his ensembles, traveling and recording with the saxophonist for powerful years. He also fronted his own bands in this period and worked with Anthony Braxton, among others. After a hiatus from the scene, with a careful return before moving markedly ahead with this new project, Jesse Dulman returns in a celebration of the life of a lost friend. In doing so, he also lauds the many lives of the music itself.
-john pietaro, 10/7/18

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