Mark Dresser, Barre Phillips Duet Across the Ocean | NBC 7 San Diego
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Mark Dresser, Barre Phillips Duet Across the Ocean

Duo separated by 6,000 miles

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Mata Julien
    Barre Phillips and Mark Dresser (from left), As seen from Nimes, France.

    UC San Diego’s latest venture into the futuristic concept of Telematics, or Translocational Concerts, took place at the unlikely hour of 11:30 a.m. on May 7, with bassist Mark Dresser operating out of the Experimental Theater. Meanwhile, in Nimes, France, some 6,000 miles away, bassist Barre Phillips poised ready for the exchange.

    The first piece began with a pensive call and response between each bassist -- Dresser’s dry and throaty acrobatics offset by the more liquid descending triple-stops of Phillips. Each man used the bow in unconventional ways --Dresser sawing deep arco against the percussive violence of Phillips, who struck his strings with frog and shaft equally.

    Both players performed acoustically, sans amplifiers, with just a shade of house-monitoring, and Dresser was still able to evoke the tiny overtone creaking he's become known for, while Phillips often used a modified flamenco-guitar technique for dramatic strumming effects.

    Each player toggled between various forms of pizzicato expressions and wildly creative uses of the bow, including eerie ponticello strokes (close to the bridge) and overtone and harmonic manipulation. Both men became de facto "drummers," as often as the need manifested itself, and it was fascinating to hear each player's distillation of "extended" techniques.

    Even though the distance from UCSD to France is considerable, because Telematics operate on the superior bandwidth of the Internet 2, the amount of inherent delay between the two locations was microscopic, amounting to a "flam" (a beat preceded by a grace note), in Dresser's estimation.

    Whatever the reason, both players seemed to be in each other's head -- that's how instantaneous the volleys and reactions sounded. There was a huge screen of Phillips just across from Dresser, and a similar setup in France, where it sounded like a larger and more enthusiastic crowd had gathered.

    Perhaps because of the early start time, the scene at UCSD was considerably more subdued. Innovation, however, waits for no one, and the future of performance is already here.

     Robert Bush is a freelance jazz writer who has been exploring the San Diego improvised music scene for more than 30 years. Follow him on Twitter @robertbushjazz. Visit The World According to Rob.