AMN Reviews: Dana Jessen – Winter Chapel [Carrier Records 057]

Winter Chapel, an album of solo performances by new music bassoonist Dana Jessen, announces itself with a shakuahchi-like, upper register fluctuation of sound. This opening gives some idea of the rest of the music to follow on this stunning meeting of contemporary bassoon technique and physical architecture. The album was recorded this past January in Fairchild Chapel at Oberlin, where Jessen teaches contemporary music and improvisation. Jessen’s previous solo release, Carve, demonstrated the versatility of the solo bassoon; Winter Chapel continues in that vein by pushing the instrument further out to the edges of its possibilities, aided and augmented by the deeply resonant surroundings of the performance space. The space in fact becomes something of a duet partner, particularly on Part Two, where its reverberations double Jessen’s furiously cascading sheets of sound; the room not only creates the impression of a second instrument playing but also lends the bassoon’s sound the acerbic edge of a hard-played, baritone saxophone. The more reflective Part Four is an essay in phrasing and dynamics, its languidly-unspooled lines allowed to echo and die away into a thick silence. The long improvisation of Part Five, which includes delicate passages of conventional technique alongside of aggressively dense forays into extended technique, captures the spirit of the entire album in miniature. A remarkable album of disruptive beauty.

Daniel Barbiero

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