It was at 55 Bar where I first met Chris Dingman. I immediately found his band, and his vibraphone playing (vibrations?), to be absolutely enthralling and mesmerizing. It was a cosmic sonicscape they created, and I was totally taken by it.
During the break I took the chance to chat up Dingman to ask him about the vibraphone. I'd long-nurtured a fascination for this lesser-known instrument and was really curious about it. Where did the vibrato come from? Does it plug in? Most importantly though, how did he learn to play it?
His response, Well, I played piano and drums and then I had this astronomy teacher in college who played vibes... Or something like that. That's the only way someone actually learns to play the vibraphone, I thought. It has to be written in the stars in some way.
I think I asked him on the spot if I could make a mini film about him. Over the course of a few months we spent a lot of time together, recording interviews, shooting in his basement, shooting at The Stone and then at Blank Studio in SoHo. It was this final session, shot over a the course of an hour, that I decided to focus on for this film. Something about the simple background seemed perfect for his cosmic compositions.
What I can tell you about Dingman is that he’s entirely committed to his craft, in a humbling way. Few people I’ve met over the years are so singular committed to something as he is. I find it inspiring. He’s also obviously incredibly gifted and loves to share his music far and wide, as a bandleader and as a teacher. Luckily he’s in a great place to do just that.
This piece that her performs “Ali” was named for a musician we both share a deep mutual love for: Ali Farka Toure, the Malian guitarist whose songs are trance-like and inspiring.
I hope you find this piece inspiring as well. During the months since recording Dingman, I've often revisited Ali and have always found calm and peace listening to it. Needless to say, Dingman's work inspires me immensely.
Special thanks to Blank Studio and to Chris Dingman.
*You can see Chris Dingman live at Cornelia Street Cafe Thursday Nov 30.