AMN Reviews: Chris Dingman – The Subliminal and The Sublime (2015)

600x533xcover_wo_border-e1428805281293.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Jz53Jxf-kMMusic composed by Chris Dingman

responsive review and poem by Monique Avakian

(CD artwork and design by Shoko Tagaya)

I was lucky enough to attend the CD Release Party for, The Subliminal and The Sublime, held June 26, 2015 at the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at 44 Charlton Street, NYC. The evening began with bassist Garth Stevenson performing his own compositions during an opening set. In keeping with the tone of the evening, Mr. Stevenson shared stories involving his creative process, heavily influenced by interactions with the natural world, scientists and artists. Mr. Stevenson’s involving sound~poem creations were enhanced by narrative details that included his movingly successful search for ways to get his bass to sound like layered whale songs, wild wind and frozen ice flows.

Following Mr. Stevenson’s meditative grounding appeared the sextet of: Chris Dingman on vibraphone; Loren Stillman on alto sax; Fabian Almazan on piano; Ryan Ferreira on guitar; Linda Oh on bass; and Justin Brown on drums. The work entitled, The Subliminal and the Sublime, was composed by Mr. Dingman, sponsored by the Inner Arts initiative and commissioned by Chamber Music America with funding from the Doris Duke Foundation.

Audience members (seated in the theatre that is also home to radio station WNYC) were treated to the five-part suite in its entirety with a continuous flow and no breaks, followed by a short Q&A session with the composer.

The Subliminal and the Sublime aims at cross-genre pollination. The combination of jazz, electronica, contemporary chamber music, minimalism and layers of pattern inspired by the natural world all blended to create a feeling of meditative incubation.

Highlights of June 26th:

* Seamless sound transitions between piano and vibraphone, all very difficult to achieve live! In juxtaposition there were moments of Almazon soloing at the piano where he took small, well-timed risky excursions out and then further out. This adventurousness resulted in a kind of underpinning that simultaneously felt like an unraveling that somehow was not…

* Masterful dynamics and nuanced voicings at the vibraphone showed a deep ease and grace on the part of Mr. Dingman. Demonstration of complex technique was equally matched by a superior integrity during improvisation. Considering that the album employs a significant degree of electronics, this live version was especially satisfying.

* Ferreira’s ethereal guitar filled with a hefty degree of appropriate space generated a beautiful and simultaneous ground full of lilt that truly felt magical at times.

* An engaging and lengthy bass solo by Linda Oh underscored how an original voice could pull the flow of the structure to bend considerably without ever breaking the unifying thread(s)…

* Stillman’s characteristic harmonic adventurousness and warm tone shone through without dominating. His thoughtful push and pull of restraint also served as an anchor for the group flow.

* A highly restrained and pivotal anchoring was offered from the drum throne, particularly in the cymbal work. Justin Brown’s approach carried a haiku-like sensibility, with plenty of space and close choices—all of which echoed the deeper philosophical underpinnings of the work as a whole with clarity and charm.

Enticingly, and endearingly, one can not only buy the CD, but also receive various individualized packages of “inside information” via regular mail as well as through free downloads and pdfs. My particular treasure-trove included a lengthy hand-written note filled with interesting details about the recording process as well as stunning photos taken by the composer on the nature-based excursions that inspired his creative process. Interacting with these thoughtful and fun material augments results in a deeper multi-modal relationship with the music.

Many satisfying listens can begin here (and further down):

“Tectonic Plates” by Chris Dingman:

Bandcamp: ‪…

Chris Dingman: ‪

Chamber Music America:

WNYC/The Greene Space:

Garth Stevenson:

Linda Oh:

Fabian Almazan:

Loren Stillman:

Justin Brown (Jazz Gallery conversational interview with Ben Wolf):

Ryan Ferreira & Chris Dingman @ SEEDS March 6, 2013

Inner Arts: ‪…

The Inner Arts Initiative is “a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding the role of music and art in our society, and promoting a greater understanding of ourselves and our world through the arts.”