Review: Jesse Dulman Quartet Live at Downtown Music Gallery, April 29, 2018

Guest Writer: Vanessa Vargas

The DMG 27th Anniversary Series of Sonic Celebrations continued on the evening of April 29th with the Jesse Dulman Quartet. Located in Chinatown, the Downtown Music Gallery is a long-running and internationally known record store. Playfully coined during the concert as “the only avant-garde jazz store still on the planet,” it is clear that both the musicians and the audience members value the place highly. Walking into the store, one has to go down the stairs into the basement of the building. The small room is filled with records and CDs along the walls – known names of musicians, such as Cecil Taylor, Mary Halvorson, and Albert Ayler, all over the store.

Beginning the hour-long set, Jesse Dulman made the announcement that it was dedicated to the aforementioned Cecil Taylor, known as one of the pioneers of free jazz. The group then began the set, starting with a strong drum solo from Leonid Galaganov. Using an array of sounds, he created multiple overlapping layers of textures with contributions by the other three members. The quartet consists of Jesse Dulman (tuba), Leonid Galaganov (drums), Dave Sewelson (baritone saxophone), and Ras Moshe (tenor saxophone). A horn-heavy grouping, there was some internal debate as to who would be placed in the foreground throughout the pieces. Where in other groups, the shift in dynamic is more subtle, there were very present signals at this show, especially between the two saxophone players. Having the two different saxophones in the group, along with the tuba, gave the group a large range of octaves to play with. Moments where Sewelson and Moshe would bring the sax to its high pitch sounds, gave the music a new texture and raspy element – one that is uncommonly heard. It is important to acknowledge the amount of practice and skill that these two saxophone players have. Through the seven short pieces, they both played their fair share of extremely fast runs that also went up and down the octave. These runs created an almost overwhelming feeling within the music. But Dulman, with his tuba, added a base layer for audience members to come back to. While through many of the pieces, the tuba played in the background acted more as a beat or rhythm, there were moments where, through all the chaos, the focus broke through to be on Jesse. This is a strength of the tuba; with it’s lower octave and round tone, that when Sewelson and Moshe overlap each other it is the deep sounds of the tuba that come through. Separately, Leonid stayed in the background for the majority of the set. Consistently adding further texture and rhythm to the pieces, the drums were only placed in the foreground of the piece about two times through the entire hour.

Between every song, Dulman made small announcements, such as if the piece was dedicated to a specific person. Before the final song of the set, he spoke a bit about how the group came to be. His relationship with the baritone player, Dave Sewelson, is the longest of the group, having met many years ago in the city. Jesse then met Ras through another musician that he had performed with in the past. But, he had only met Leonid in the last year or so while attending a William Parker show. Throughout the set, there did seem to be a slight distance between the three horn players and the drummer. While each individual member seems to be extremely talented through their solos, there was a noted separation that was felt when all four began to overlap. Dulman announced that the group is scheduled to play two further shows in the month of May. With these immensely skilled musicians, it will be interesting to see how they progress in the future.

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