Ambrose Akinmusire – trumpet
Loren Stillman – saxophones
Fabian Almazan – piano
Joe Sanders – bass
Justin Brown – drums
Chris Dingman – vibraphone
Ryan Ferreira - guitar (track 3)
Erica Von Kleist – flute (tracks 8 & 12)
Mark Small – bass clarinet (track 8)
Waking Dreams tells a personal story, based on experiences from the past 12 years of my life. In these experiences, I believe there are elements - darkness, struggle, and loss, desire and hope, happiness, joy, and peace – that are universal to the human condition. For me, the music gives voice and release to these fundamental aspects of being alive in a way that I cannot otherwise express. When I was unable to devote enough attention to the music during my conscious life, its need for existence came through in restless dreams in the early morning hours. In the end, writing, playing, and listening to these Waking Dreams has had a healing effect for me. It is my hope that you will find them to have a similar effect. Most of all, I wish that we all can find a personal freedom from the darkness and strife that often surrounds us. May we find real peace, real joy, and real happiness.
- Chris Dingman, 2011
All compositions by Chris Dingman (Between Worlds – BMI),
except “Nocturnal” by Joe Chambers (Hocham Music – BMI),
and “Epilogue: Stillness” by Chris Dingman and Ben Oppenheim (Between Worlds - BMI)
Produced by Chris Dingman
Ambrose Akinmusire appears courtesy of Blue Note Records
Recorded August 18, 2010 at Brooklyn Recording, Brooklyn, NY
Engineer: Andy Taub Assistant Engineer: Ben Liscio
Mixed and Mastered by Michael Marciano at Systems Two Studios, Brooklyn, NY
Additional tracking and production by Ryan Ferreira
Cover art by Hye Jeong Park
Design by Ariel Lapidus and Moose Herd Creative
Dreams have a mysterious way of revealing us to ourselves; their unique leaps of space, time and logic are unlike the stories we invent in our waking states, but can provide a similar sense of emotional unfolding and self-realization.
Vibraphonist/composer Chris Dingman’s Waking Dreams recreates that experience in the form of a suite of new music that travels over its 14 tracks from darkness to light, from hazy melancholy to serene peace, while moving, often obliquely, through moments and memories from the composer’s life.
“It doesn’t follow a chronological storyline as much as one of mood,” Dingman explains. “I had the idea of an album that transforms over the course of the entire thing, ending with a big catharsis.”
As the album’s title implies, the effort of writing music from these experiences and capturing their elusive connections was a fully conscious one, expressed via hours spent toiling over sheet music rather than under a deep sleep. But actual late-night visions did intrude onto the process, Dingman reveals.
“The name Waking Dreams, came about partially because I was having dreams about the music,” he says. “Especially dreams where I was in and out of sleep, having semi-realistic experiences pertaining to playing music.”
Doubtless the stellar group of musicians who appear alongside Dingman on the CD played their own part in those dreams. Many of them have been a part of his musical life for so long that their approach has become synonymous with the sound of their chosen instruments in Dingman’s mind (conscious and otherwise).
Such is the case with Ambrose Akinmusire, the rising star trumpeter who Dingman first met while both studied with the likes of Terence Blanchard, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance at the University of Southern California in the mid-2000s. “His voice became what I was hearing when I would hear trumpet,” Dingman says. “I became familiar with his personality and how he approached music, so there are specific points on the album where I wanted his kind of unpredictability.”
Bassist Joe Sanders was also at the Monk Institute at the same time, but his relationship with the rest of the rhythm section runs even deeper. He, drummer Justin Brown, and pianist Fabian Almazan (whose wistful, weightless solo “Prelude” opens the album and establishes the dream-like atmosphere) all studied together at the Brubeck Institute while teenagers. Together, they bring that long-running interplay to their subtle interactions on Dingman’s material.
On saxophone, Loren Stillman’s warm, pliant sound provides a perfect complement to Akinmusire’s keening horn. “Loren has the most beautiful sound,” Dingman says. “He has this way of stating the melodies so purely and clearly.”
Like a dream, the specific details are less relevant than the accumulation of atmosphere and impression. For the dreamer – in this case, the composer – the moments and images that arise hold very special meaning; for the listener, all that needs to be communicated is the journey. The awe and reflection inspired by walking through the ruins of a formerly great metropolis in India may suddenly cede to the harried agitation of flying across time zones; the overwhelming bustle and din of New York City calms to time alone, listening to Wayne Shorter in a cemetery on a hill.
Following the “Interlude”, the emotional tenor begins its upward trajectory, traveling through moments of meditation and transformation to a point where, Dingman says, “it symbolizes a transition of self, the way the world changes when you realize something deeply important about yourself.”
For all the talk of dreams and meditation, the music on Waking Dreams, while maintaining its richly layered atmosphere, is far from new age airiness. Just witness the urgent angularity of “Jet Lag”, the wondrous tenderness of “Manhattan Bridge”, or the vivid colors of “Indian Hill.” Even the transcendent pieces in the disc’s latter half share a remarkable focus: the aptly-named “Clear the Rain” is as bold and piercing as a sunbreak through clouds; “Nocturnal” features Erica Von Kleist’s flute to conjure the darkness of night with the embrace of a lullaby; and “Zaneta” expresses optimism and joy without a saccharine aftertaste.
Since his 2007 arrival in New York, Dingman has performed with leaders as diverse as Steve Lehman, Adam Rudolph, Gerald Clayton, and Harris Eisenstadt, netting him a place in the 2009 and 2010 Downbeat Critics Poll as a Rising Star on vibes. His work as a leader finds a way to navigate that entire spectrum of influences and collaborations, fusing the cerebral and the emotional in highly personal fashion.
Release date: June 21, 2011
"First and foremost, what you get from this record is this strong, very mysterious, very enthralling atmosphere throughout."
- Kevin LeGendre, BBC 3, Jazz on 3
"Vibraphonist Chris Dingman delivers a sure-footed and deeply lyrical debut, a showcase both for his luminous compositions and for his rapport with a network of peers"
- Nate Chinen, The New York Times
"Rich and full of unexpected twists but never less than approachable, Dingman's debut casts an atmospheric spell true to its name."
- Chris Barton, Los Angeles Times
"Chris Dingman's Waking Dreams is a very big, pleasant surprise... This is bracing music, with complex rhythms, brooding harmonies, but also crisp melodic hooks, and an underlying lyricism: a quiet, sometimes majestic beauty... Dingman is a leader worth following."
- Fred Kaplan, Stereophile
"The year is still relatively young, but Chris Dingman has already notched what's certain to be one of its watershed recordings: Waking Dreams, a gorgeous, contemplative sequence of moody original compositions played by an outstanding band."
- Steve Smith, Time Out New York
"Mr. Dingman's own style stands out: he uses it not just for melody and percussion but also for sound, in long, smoky chords beaming out like floodlighting."
- Ben Ratliff, The New York Times
"Beautifully rendered and thoroughly accessible ... a work of art and form. To bring ideas into fruition - let alone ones from dreams - into music that's articulated at this level, is something to admire."
- Mark F. Turner, All About Jazz
"Vibraphonist Chris Dingman has become one of jazz's young leading lights."
- Michael Hamad, Hartford Advocate
"If you believe that ballads deserve the same taut interplay as uptempo tunes, you're likely down with vibraphonist Dingman, whose new Waking Dreams is a suite of reflections that rebuffs somnambulance with inventive exchange after inventive exchange."
- Jim Macnie, Village Voice