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Friday, March 5, 2010

Paul Dunmall and friends

Saxophonist and bagpipe player Paul Dunmall is quite prolific. A rough calculation brings me to 160 records, which is quite a feat. On the other hand, Dunmall is this great live performer and improvisor, so his art is his unique performance on that place with these specific other musicians, nothing more and nothing less. His records are just the meagre testimony of his gigs, his real art and work. It is hence no surprise that quite a substantial part of his CDs are recorded live.

Paul Dunmall & Chris Corsano - Identical Sunsets (ESP, 2010) ***½

The first in the row is excellent, with American Chris Corsano on drums, best known from his recordings with that other bearded sax-player, Paul Flaherty. Dunmall starts the performance on "border pipe", a kind of bagpipe, and although I can appreciate Dunmall's use of this instrument in a free improv environment, it is not the sound I like most. But the track lasts only five minutes. The rest of the album, with Dunmall on sax is more to my liking. Both musicians play extremely strong, not necessarily powerful, but strong: using their skills, using varying levels of intensity to give the limited line-up loads of perspective and change, from highly voluminous percussive moments to slow and close to silent meditations, as on "Living Proof". Corsano is at his best in the more energetic parts, as on "Better Get Another Lighthouse", which starts with a long drum solo, after which Dunmall picks up the energy and literally plays up the storm. The last piece, "Out Of Sight", is less jazzy, more free improv, with unusual tones coming from both the drums and the sax, conjuring up strange sound imagery, but when the speed and power pick up again, Dunmall returns to longer phrasing, increasing the accessibility and the enthusiasm of the attentive audience.

Paul Dunmall & Miles Levin - Miles Above (Duns, 2009) ***½

On this sax-percussion duet, the drummer is of a different style. Miles Levin, son of Tony Levin, has a softer and more subtle approach to his instrument than Corsano, which leads Dunmall to be a little more gentle himself. The album was also recorded live, at TL's Jazz Club in Birmingham, during three concerts between October '08 and April '09, with each track clocking at a little over twenty-two minutes. On the second piece, Dunmall switches to soprano.The music is strong and expressive,quite enjoyable throughout, but for those who already have lots of Dunmall records, it will not add much.

Paul Dunmall & Paul Rogers - Repercussions (FMR, 2009) ****

Probably the best in the series is Dunmall's duo with Paul Rogers on bass, and this for various reasons. Dunmall is more challenged into lyricism and melodic variation because of Rogers' creative changes, both on arco and plucked, but certainly also because of the great interaction between the two soloists. Dunmall surpasses himself at various moments on the album, be it on bagpipe, soprano or clarinet. This is about as intense as it gets, both light-footed and dark, spritually uplifting and desperate, meditative and powerful, moaning and singing, hypnotic and serene, in short the kind of musicial contradictions that create tension and hence the joy of listening. The performance was recorded on 24 February 2009 at Unitarian Chapel, Warwick.

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© stef