Chris Dingman’s Waking Dreams
Chris Dingman’s Waking Dreams is a very big, pleasant surprise. I’d never heard of Dingman, who plays vibes and composed all but one of the CD’s 14 tracks. The label, Between World Music, is Dingman’s own, and this is its only release (usually a bad sign). I must confess that I probably put it on at all only after noticing that one of the musicians playing on the album (the only one in the sextet whose work I know) was Ambrose Akinmusire, the most exciting new trumpeter on the scene. And well, as I said, what a surprise.
This is bracing music, with complex rhythms, brooding harmonies, but also crisp melodic hooks, and an underlying lyricism: a quiet, sometimes majestic beauty.
It’s engaging from the start, but I must say, I wasn’t taken in completely till Track 4, “Manhattan Bridge,” a haunting ballad that rings with romance, melancholy, wistfulness, and hope all at once. (Maybe I’m projecting, but listen for yourself.)
The spell doesn’t break until the last track, a clunky stab at jazz-and-poetry. (Push the Stop button before you get there.)
All the musicians play with a surefooted ease and, when it’s called for, intensity. Akinmusire is, as expected, very good but he doesn’t stand out from the rest. The sound quality is generally quite good: the vibes, piano, and horns ring out, clear and dynamic, though the bass is a bit buried and the drums sound out of phase.
Still, Dingman is a leader worth following. (The CD seems to be available only from his website; Amazon sells only an MP3 version and, as I write this, a used copy of the CD that some joker is offering for one billion dollars.)