Chris Dingman's "Waking Dreams"
Strange how even in jazz, a definitively live medium in which CD sales have shrunk to a nub, first albums have lately been rising to their feet and saying something. They're better than they need to be. Even entirely self-produced ones, like the vibraphonist Chris Dingman's Waking Dreams.
Jazz is a family of languages, and Mr. Dingman is polylingual. Having arrived in New York four years ago, he has played on the outside and the inside, studying with Anthony Braxton and, through a Thelonious Monk Institute scholarship, with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. He has been heard on a few recent albums and in evolving stage pieces full of odd structures for improvisers: Steve Lehman's Travail, Transformation and Flow," Harris Eisenstadt's Canada Day" and Jen Shyu's Raging Waters, Red Sands."
Waking Dreams" isn't quite as formally quirky or disruptive as those. Mr. Dingman is a composer eager to show that he can satisfy basic requirements: ballads, medium-tempo tension and dense contrapuntal cross-hatching. And the somnolent ballads like Manhattan Bridge" and Same Coin," when he's not letting studiousness interfere too much with melody, carry the day. The whole enterprise has the ring of the new, but you can imagine hearing it on WBGO, the local radio standard of the straight-ahead jazz tradition.