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Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Iceberg Quartet - The Iceberg Quartet (FMR Records, 2012) ****½

Paul Dunmall is a true master on this recording. I could stop the review there but it wouldn't be fair to the rest of the quartet who also bring everything they have to this fantastic album.

What starts out as a tentative intro, with each player softly feeling out the mood, quickly explodes with Dunmall leading the charge. On the first and longest track, 'An Uncommon Alacrity', Sam Wooster (trumpet), Chris Mapp (bass), and Mark Sanders (drums) provide the canvas for Dunmall's sax to weave its needle and string around in order to quilt together and amazingly colorful free jazz blanket.

The track seems to reach its boiling point halfway through. It leaves the listener wondering where it could possibly go from here. Instead of pushing the bandwidth even further, the group allows Wooster to play over the bass and drums as Dunmall drops out. Soon Mapp is solo and they have managed to get us right back to how the track started. The is more tentative blowing and plucking, and tapping before Dunmall comes back in to keep it all together. Sanders does a great job in letting the whole thing simmer without forcing the tempo, but is clearly up to the task of keeping up and adding his own color when the track breaks again under its own tension. Wooster forcefully leads the charge during the second half of the track. 

With as much talk of extended technique as there has been lately, this type of a jazz gathering is some what of a relief. Four men doing what they do exceptionally well, that's it.

Track 2, 'Antarctic Hot Day', has trumpet and sax playing each other's faces with Mapp providing a bowed bass carpet underfoot for Dunmall and Wooster to stomp on. They really are something to listen to on this track. The collective experience needed to make this work is truly inspiring.

But there are rumblings, loud rumblings that could only mean that the iceberg has separated from the glacier and is headed south. Dunmall gives us the signal as the the final track 'Cold Approach' begins. There is a wandering and a searching between Dunmall and Mapp but the iceberg soon picks up speed as the rest of the quartet help with the propulsion. The track then simply soars. 

I hit play again immediately after the last note rang out.

Can be purchased from the label. 

Get a good look at them work here: