Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Dresser, Mark

Dresser, Mark, bass; b. Los Angeles, CA, 26 September 1952. His mother is Norine Dresser (b. 1931) and his father is Harold Dresser (b. 1921). He has two sisters, Andrea (b. 1954) and Amy (b. 1959). His wife, Carol Del Signore was born in 1952. They have a daughter, Isa Del Signore Dresser (b. 1990) who plays piano.

Emerging from the L.A. "free" jazz scene of the early 70's, Dresser performed with the "Black Music Infinity", led by Stanley Crouch, and included Bobby Bradford, Arthur Blythe, David Murray, and James Newton.  Concurrently he was performing with the San Diego Symphony. 

After completing B.A. and M.A. degrees at UCSD where he studied with contrabass virtuoso Bertram Turetzky and a 1983 Fulbright Fellowship in Italy with Franco Petracchi, Dresser relocated to New York in 1986 after joining the quartet of composer/saxophonist, Anthony Braxton.  Dresser played with Braxton's longest performing quartet (1985-94). 

Once in NY, Dresser began working with a wide variety of musicians including Ray Anderson, Tim Berne, Jane Ira Bloom, Anthony Davis, John Zorn, and many others. He focused on composing for the cooperative groups, Tambastics with flutist Robert Dick, percussionist Gerry Hemingway, and pianist Denman Maroney and the string trio, ARCADO, with violinist Mark Feldman and cellist Hank Roberts.  Numerous European tours, awards, six CD's, and several commissions resulted, including "For Not the Law," a composition for ARCADO and orchestra from WDR Radio of Cologne Germany, "Armadillo" for ARCADO and the WDR Big Band, and "Bosnia," a work written for the Trio du Clarinettes of France and ARCADO.  His collaborative projects include a trio, C/D/E, with multi-reed player virtuoso, Marty Ehrlich and drummer Andrew Cyrille, a duo with hyper pianist Denman Maroney, the Marks Brothers duo with fellow bassist Mark Helias, and a duo with the cello virtuoso, Frances-Marie Uitti.

Since 1999 to the present Dresser's dominant group is his electro-acoustic trio featuring flutist Matthias Ziegler and pianist Denman Maroney. They've toured worldwide. In addition, video artists Tom Leeser and animator Sarah Jane Lapp have made works expressly for his live performance. His larger group, "Mark Dresser's Modular Ensemble" performs his chamber works internationally. 

Solo performance is one of Dresser's specialties. For over twenty years he has developed custom made electronics for of amplifying normally inaudible sounds. Additional original solo bass music was composed and performed for the New York Shakespeare Festival Production of HENRY VI.
Commissions include, "Remudadero"(2002) for the saxophone quartet, Rova,  "Banquet," a double concerto for various flutes, contrabass and string quartet written for Swiss flute virtuoso Matthias Ziegler.(Tzadik CD-1997), "Air to Mir," commissioned by the McKim Fund in the Library of Congress (Marinade-Tzadik CD-2000.)  Also "Althaus" for tuba virtuoso, David LeClair with bass, cello, alto sax, and clarinet is recorded on Marinade. He has received N.Y.F.A. Fellowships.

He currently is on faculty at Hampshire College and the New School and a fellow of the Humanities Council and Music Department at Princeton University in Spring 2004.

He has performed and recorded over eighty CDs with some of the strongest personalities in contemporary music and jazz including Ray Anderson, Tim Berne, Jane Ira Bloom, Bobby Bradford, Tom Cora, Marilyn Crispell, Anthony Davis, Dave Douglas, Fred Frith, Diamanda Galas, Vinny Golia, Earl Howard, Oliver Lake, George Lewis, Misha Mengelberg, Ikue Mori, James Newton, Evan Parker, Sonny Simmons, Louis Sclavis, Vladimir Tarasov, Henry Threadgill, and John Zorn. 

He has given lecture demonstrations at the Julliard School, Princeton, New England Conservatory, Conservatory of Paris, Conservatory of Amsterdam, UCSD, and many others.

He is currently on faculty at the New School and Hampshire College. In 2004 he has been appointed Lecturere in the Council of the Humanities and Department of Music at Princeton University in Spring 2004. He has been nominated for a 2003 Grammy for "best classical performance. He has received NYFA awards during the '90's.

Mark Dresser is a virtuoso contrabass player and composer whose uncompromising voice and singular style has impressed international audiences since 1972. Not content with the traditional parameters of the contrabass in jazz and new music, Dresser has developed a cutting edge system of custom electro-acoustic microphones to amplify his own unmistakable vocabulary on the instrument.  This vocabulary is easily recognizable in over seventy recordings, including those with other luminaries of "new " jazz composition and improvisation such as Ray Anderson, Tim Berne, Anthony Davis, Dave Douglas, Gerry Hemingway, Bob Ostertag, John Zorn and others. For nine years he performed and recorded with the Anthony Braxton Quartet with Hemingway and Marilyn Crispell.

A coterie of world-class musicians make up Dresser's current performance ensembles, which showcase his compositional versatility. These include: Mark Dresser's Trio, featuring "hyper" pianist Denman Maroney and multi-flutist Mathias Ziegler; Mark Dresser's Force Green featuring Dave Douglas or Herb Robertson on trumpet, Theo Bleckmann- voice; hyper-pianist Denman Maroney, Phil Haynes or Mike Sarin, drums; The Modular Ensemble, which performs his chamber music compositions and features violinists Matt Manieri and Mary Rowell, violist Marius Ungureanu, cellist Francis Marie Uitti, Denman Maroney , and Mathias Ziegler.  He composed music for the 1929 French/Surrealist film Un Chien Andalou (1997) keyboardist /composer Anthony Coleman and clarinetist/sax player Chris Speed. His current film project is a collaboration with Los Angeles visual artists Tom Leeser and Alison Saar based on Dresser's seminal work, "Subtonium," which will be adapted for the Mark Dresser Trio.

In addition to his own ensembles, Mark Dresser is a founding member of the string trio Arcado, and was commissioned by the WDR Radio of Cologne, Germany in 1991 to compose "For Not the Law" for string trio and orchestra. The repertoire of the Double Trio, a collaboration between Arcado and the Trio du Clarinettes included Dresser's piece "Bosnia", which was commissioned by the Banliue Bleues Festival in Paris.
Mark Dresser 's recent collaborative projects include Tambastics with multi-flutist Robert Dick, Gerry Hemingway, and Denman Maroney and CDE, a trio with multi-reed player Marty Ehrlich and drummer Andrew Cyrille.

Mark Dresser has also received commissions for compositions for other instruments including a 1998 commission from the McKim Fund in the Library of Congress for "Air to Mir," a piece for violin and piano, and "Banquet" which was commissioned by Swiss flute virtuoso Mathias Ziegler and is the title track of the Tzadik CD(1998). His most recent commission is for tuba virtuoso David LeClair and will be written for a mixed quintet.
Mark Dresser has twice been awarded a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts and has received several grants for performer and composer including Meet the Composer. He holds both a Bachelor and Master of Arts from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) where he studied with contrabass virtuoso Bertram Turetzky. He is also the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship for advanced musical studies in Italy with noted contrabassist Franco Petracchi. In September 2004 he began teaching full time at UCSD, replacing his mentor Turetzky.

Bass Excursions (1983); Live at the Knitting Factory Volume 1 (1988); Live at the Knitting Factory Volume 2 (1989); October Meeting (1991); Castles for Carter (1994); The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari-Music for the Silent Film (1994); Force Green (1995); Invocation (1995); Banquet (1997); Live at the Knitting Factory Volume 1; Orbital Inversion, Live at the Knitting Factory Volume 2 (1997); Eye'll Be Seeing You (1998); Marks Brothers (with Mark Helias) (2000); Later (2000); Sonomondo (with Frances Marie Uitti) (2000); Marinade (2000); C/D/E (with Andrew Cyrille and Marty Ehrlich) (2000); Duologues (with Denman Maroney) (2001); Peace Beyond Conflict (with Bruton Green) (2001); Reunion Live at the Guelph Festival (2001); Aquifer (2002); Arcado String Trio: Arcado (1989), Behind the Myth (1990), For Three Strings and Orchestra (1991), Live in Europe (1996), Reissue (2003); Arcado and the Trio du Clarinettes: Green Dolphy Street (1995)
As sideperson:
Ray Anderson: Harrisburg Halflife (1980), What Because (1991), Blues Bred in the Bone (1989), It Just So Happens (1987); Tim Berne: Sanctified Dreams (1987), Fractured Fairy Tales (1990), Caos Totale (1991), Diminutive Mysteries (1993), Nice View (1993); Bobby Bradford: Lost in L.A. (1983); Gregg Bendian: Counter Currents (1996), Interzone (1996); Jane Ira Bloom: The Red Quartets (1999), Sometimes the Magic (2002); Greetje Bijma: Barefoot (1993); Anthony Braxton: The London Concert (1985), Birmingham (1985), Coventry (1985), Five Compositions (1986), Willisau (1991),  Victoriaville (1992), Twelve Compositions (1994), Santa Cruz (1997), If My Memory Serves Me Right; Don Byron: Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz, The Wedding Dance-"Live at the Knitting Factory vol 3 (1990); Dave Douglas: Parallel Worlds (1993), Sanctuary (1997); Marilyn Crispell: Live at the Kitchen (1991); Anthony Davis: The Life and Times of Malcolm X (1992); Marty Ehrlich: The Long View (2002); Satoko Fujii: Looking Out of the Window (1997), Kitsune-Bi (1999), Toward, "To West" (2000), Junction (2001),Bell the Cat (2002); Gerry Hemingway: Down to the Wire (1992), Demon Chaser (1993), Marmelade King (1995), Slamadam (1995), Perfect World (1996), 20th Anniversary Album Jazzgalerie Nicklesdorf (1997), Johnny's Corner Song (1998), Chamber Works (1999), Francois Houle: In The Vernacular (1998); Jason Hwang: The Unfolding Stone (1988); Klaus Konig: The Song of Songs (1993), Time Fragments (1995); Sato Michihiro: Rodan (1989); James Newton: Binu (1978); Kevin Norton: Integrated Variables (1996); Bob Ostertag: Say No More (1993), Say No More Live (1994), Verbatim (1996), Verbatim, Flesh and Blood (1999); Ned Rothenberg and Paul Dresher: Opposites Attract, Power Lines; Tambastics: Tambastics (1992); Eric Watson: Silent Hearts (1999), Full Metal Quartet (2000); John Zorn: Spy vs Spy; Film Works (1986-1990); Total Loss-Tribute to Misha Mengelberg (1987); Kristallnacht (1993); Bar Kokba (1997); Cobra (2002)

ARCANA-musicians on music edited by John Zorn- "A Personal Pedagogy" by Mark Dresser. 2000. Granary Books-New York 
Down Beat- "Remapping Through Harmonics"-by Michele Mercer. March 2000, volume 67 #3.
JAZZIZ-"The150 Most Influentia Artists Who Moved Jazz" Mark Dresser, 1998
MUSICIAN MAGAZINE: "Bass Manipulations" by Gene Santoro- January 1991
JAZZIZ-"Redressing the Bass" by Harvey Pekar July 1998.
MUSICHE-"Mark Dresser-Interview" by Roberto Zanisi-1993
Encyclopedia of Jazz of the Seventies -Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler.  Horizon       Press.
BASS WORLD, JOURNAL OF THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF BASSISTS- "Across the Sonic Universe"- Interview w/ Mark Dresser by Madeline Crouch. Summer '99
Forces In Motion, Anthony Braxton and the Meta-Reality of Creative  Music-Graham Lock, 1985, Quartet Books-London.
Jazz und Komposition, Darmstadter zur Jazzforschung herausgegeben von           Wolfram  Knauer-1991Wolke
The Contemporary Contrabass. Bertram Turetzky. University of California  Press,  Berkeley. 1989.
Josef Woodard: ReBach. Cross-Trained in Classical and Jazz, in: Jazziz, 7/1 (Dec/Jan.1989/90)(interviews with Keith Jarrett, John McLaughlin, Andre Previn, Bob James, Dresser)
Gene Santoro: Bass Manipulations: Mark Dresser, in: Musician, Jan.1991
Wolfram Knauer (Ed.): Jazz und Komposition, 1992 [book]
Roberto Zanisi & Alessandro Achili: Mark Dresser, in: Musiche, #14 (1993)
Stephen Esmedina: Sanctified Demonology, in: San Diego Reader, 12.May 1994

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