Christopher Dell – vibraphone

Christian Ramond – bass

Felix Astor – drums

DRA is a unique contemporary music research ensemble focussing on the criticality of rhythm. In the 25 years of its work, DRA has created a significant and iconic body of work that has been the subject of intense discussion in the music world.  According the American Composer George Lewis with DRA Dell presents a “unique hybrid of composition, improvisation, communication, and complex metric modulations that reflect his deep engagement with organizational studies.”

DRA defines rhythm criticality as a highly perspectivized exploration of thinking and performing multilayered rhythm practices in music and reflecting on their conditions of possibility. Along these lines rhythm criticality is the capacity to question conventional epistemological framings of musical form. DRA aimed and aims at expanding debates over formalism, historicism and aesthetics by focusing on one of music’s most important, most vested, and perhaps least well-defined or definable terms. Rhythm in this work is at once an aesthetic vector and a processual concept. It is a key term through which DRA delineates musical form, either through modulation of or confrontation with gridded meter. (what Gilles Deleuze in reference to Pierre Boulez has termed striated space)

We propose that this strategy be subsumed under the term “meta-music.” Central to this approach is the condition of referencing. One might assert that this condition was heralded by the second generation of conceptual artists. At times labeled under context art or post-conceptual art, these artists expanded the 1960s linguistic turn and negation of the picture to an artistic practice that critically reflected the construction of the social, commercial, art-historical, political, and media contexts in their works. Linking the rather cognitive approach of the 1960s with expressive elements and equipping it with references, artists such as Steven Prina, Louise Lawler, and Christopher Williams pursued what one might call a “rematerialization” of art.

In this way DRA’s vast body of work draws references to among others Edgar Varese, Art Blakey, Mary Lou Willliams, Barbara Heller, Django Bates, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, Carla Bley, Norbert Scholly, Anthony Braxton, George Lewis, Elvin Jones, Pauline Oliveiros, Chaya Czernowin, Earle Brown, Charles Mingus, Roman Haubenstock-Ramati, Herb Pomeroy, Hal Overton, Joe Mc Phee, Tyshawn Sorey, Keiko Abe, Karnataka College of Percussion, Joe Henderson, Cornelius Cardew, Theo Jörgensmann, Pierre Boulez, Tony Allen, Ed Blackwell, Christian Lillinger, Karl-Heinz Stockhausen, Petter Eldh, Heinz Sauer, Peter Bruun, Frank Zappa, Jonas Westergaard, Jimmy Cobb, Louis Hayes, Grady Tate or Benoit Delbecq.

DRA toured extensively, among others for the German Goethe Institute in Brazil, Uruguay, Czech Republic, Mexico and U.S.A. It received the JazzArtAward in 2002.

At the time of the release “Future Of The Smallest Form”, the famous critic Ulrich Olshausen wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of 26 October 2001 under the headline “Air from three lungs. Gary Burton looks back, Christopher Dell looks forward” the following:
“…. In the case of Christopher Dell, one can also speak of descendants – one generation further on. The German vibraphonist would be hard to imagine without the challenging technical standards that Burton set for the world, especially as he studied with Burton and the American wrote the liner notes for Dell’s first record under his own name in 1992. What Dell does with these suggestions on his new CD is hard to believe. He uses big words to describe his concept. There is talk of the “manifesto of a new positioning in structuralist jazz”, of “innovative and vital fluidity” and the “exhaustion of what is possible in the musical space of classical trio playing”. Amazingly enough, everything is true. Others also compose complicated, twelve-tone themes with difficult changes of meter. In this trio, however, all the pieces are organized in a sequence of incessant, small-scale, highly complex structural changes. The improvisations are short but frequent and interlock irritatingly with the themes. Traditions bubble up as typical jazz phrasings up to swing, which can also sound song-like or like Dizzy Gillespie’s “Salt Peanuts”. Without question, these are highly conceptual compositions, but the confident, precise, casual flow and the technical qualities of the playing sensualize the music into a new kind of construct. The interplay of the trio – Christian Ramond (bass), Felix Astor (drums) – is the result of “three years of intensive research work”: this breathing of a body on three lungs is unprecedented. Of course, the “future of the smallest form” will not look like this: The rest of the world would have to try too hard.“

„Full of density and truth. “
Hans- Jürgen Linke, Frankfurter Rundschau

Dr. Uli Olshausen, Hessischer Rundfunk

„Full of ideas and mastery“
Django Bates

„Drive with power and speed“
Jim Santella, Cadence, U.S.A

„… a strong player, constantly intriguing,…“
Jon Andrews, Downbeat, U.S.A.

Recording Works History:

2001 “Future of the smallest Form”, jazz4ever records


2003 “Real”, enw records



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2006 “Truth Study”, enw records

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2013 “Typology”, enw records

sold out

2016 “3rd Critique”, enw records

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#46 (Montserrat)

#42 (Köln-Brüssel)

#44a (Der Geigentest)

further press:

Tim Gorbauch described the work of DRA in the Frankfurter Rundschau as “a kind of quantum leap in European jazz. Such complex, precise music, sheer madness in its intricate changes of tempo and rhythm, had not existed before; the intersection between the possibilities of new music and free jazz had been redefined.”

“Between control and short phases of unleashing, this music moves between order and creative chaos. A highly concentrated mixture that keeps the listener in suspense for almost an hour.” Darmstädter Echo

“condensed structures, carried by an undeniable flow (…) clear, surprising and immensely refined”.

Hans-Jürgen Linke in Jazzthetik

“A lightness for which the word ‘flow’ almost seems ponderous”.

Wolf Kampmann in Jazzthetik

“Convinces despite all complexity also with joy of playing, looseness and humour.”

Heinz Kronberger in drums&percussion

“Jittery and free and yet calculated and logical.”

Werner Stiefele in audio

“crystalline beauty”


“admirable the closely interwoven and sensitive interplay of the players … Listening pleasure guaranteed.” Udo Andris, Jazzpodium