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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Paul Dunmall/Trevor Taylor/Paul Rogers - Zoochosis (FMR, 2006) ****

Free jazz is all about freedom. Musical freedom, psychological freedom, personal freedom, social freedom, with often also direct links to political thoughts about freedom of speech and human rights in general. Rare is the music that comes up for the defense of animal rights. Charlie Haden played "Song For The Whales" for Old & New Dreams, and that's about all that comes to mind at the moment (but it's late and I'm tired), but here we get an entire album dedicated to the cause. Zoochosis is the psychotic behavior that animals demonstrate when caged in zoos or other confined spaces. Their repetitive movements, swinging their heads or trunks from left to right for an eternity, or for polar bears to endlessly swim around in small circles, or acts of self-mutilation even, are signs that something has gone terribly wrong. Paul Dunmall on sax, Trevor Taylor on drums and Paul Rogers on bass, evocate this "zoochosis" on this album, with the telling titles : "Bears", "Birds", "Monkeys", "Big Cats" and "Whales And Elephants". Suppose you knew nothing of this context, I'm not sure whether you could tell what this music is about. No, actually, I'm almost 100% certain that you wouldn't be able to, but that's not the point. Once you know, the stress, the distress, the repetitiveness and the pointlessness become clear. "Bears" is still relatively warm and gentle, on "Birds" you start to hear some painful bird sounds, with all three musicians scraping their instruments, once in a while erupting into a high squeal, but like in the first track falling back into total fatelesness. "Monkeys", interestingly, adds some fun to the CD, because of the steady rhythm of bass and drums, yet Rogers' arco playing adds pain and agony, with the percussion acting as a counterforce disturbing the patterns. Rhythm remains the foundation for "Big Cats", a little faster, with a soft fast walking bass by Rogers, and lots of high-hat playing by Taylor, and brilliant sax work by Dunmall. The best track is the last one, on which "Whales And Elephants", the largest animals, are evocated. The combination of Rogers' arco, Taylor's electronics and Dunmall's sax is both foreboding and beautiful at the start, but gradually evolving into a total madness of screeching sounds, not loud, not in your face, but so distressed, so full of pain, while still maintaining the overall attitude of resignation. A terrifying album, a unique listening experience.