Chris Dingman: Journeys Vol. 1

Solo vibist, former student of Terence Blanchard at the Monk Institute, plays five pieces with a generally lyrical character

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The vibraphone is a curious beast, an assemblage of tuned metal bars, dampers, resonating tubes, pedals and motor-driven butterfly valves. Together its components can produce sheets of tremolo, vibrato and sustain, allowing accomplished players to create mesmerising and fully complete solo sound worlds.

Although it’s been a fixture in jazz and contemporary classical ensembles for close to a century and is increasingly embraced in the worlds of ambient electronica by artists including Masayoshi Fujita and Jan Jelinek, solo performances remain relatively rare.

New York-based vibraphonist and composer Chris Dingman is fully alive to the instrument’s great potential. He’s perhaps better known for his work in the ensembles of Harris Eisenstadt, Ambrose Akinmusire and Steve Lehman, but solo performances are an increasingly important element of his creative life.

The multi-disc Peace (2020) collected over five hours of solo improvisations recorded for his late father, then in hospice care. Since 2019 Dingman has released dozens of solo performances in a weekly Bandcamp subscription series. He writes intelligently about the music’s creative impetus, and clearly the series has been part healing and part artistic re-centring. 

This present release collects five of those Bandcamp pieces, each selected by subscriber vote. The pulses and loops of the 15-minute opener suggest the natural rhythmic swells of moving water. Immersive in every sense, Dingman’s use of the language of minimalism is both subtle and effective. Light Your Way by contrast appears almost airborne, arcing serenely as it escapes gravity’s pull. Hope-Rebirth is a little less kinetic, Dingman’s four-mallet technique picking out a soothing sequence of metallic chords.

The Long Road has a strong narrative approach which was inspired by Dingman’s studies at the Thelonious Monk Institute with Terence Blanchard. Recorded on Martin Luther King Day, its steady dignified march charts the movement’s successes while carrying an uneasy sense of unfinished business. Closing with Refracted Light, the shortest piece of the collection, Dingman plucks a sample from Light Your Way and reworks it into a beautifully crystalline coda.

Despite being recorded in different locations and at different times, the five tracks clearly spring from a single creative source. With a focus and purity redolent of Walt Dickerson’s transcendent masterpiece Tell Us Only The Beautiful Things (1975), Journeys Vol. 1 is a compelling and unequivocal triumph.

Discography
Silently Beneath The Waves; Light Your Way; Hope-Rebirth; The Long Road; Refracted Light (49.00)
Dingman (vib). Recorded at various locations and dates on Lenape territory, USA.
Inner Arts IAI004