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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Catching-up with Paul Dunmall (Day Two)

By Colin Green

Paul Dunmall, Frank Paul Schubert, Sebastiano Dessanay, Jim Bashford ‎– Sign of the Times (FMR, 2018) ****

A set from October 2017, and multiple saxophones again, with Dunmall covering soprano, alto and tenor (left) and Frank Paul Schubert on soprano and alto (right), their third recorded outing together. They’re joined by Sebastiano Dessanay on double bass and Jim Bashford, drums, who both played with Dunmall as a trio earlier in the year at the same venue ( Live at The Lamp Tavern (NOL, 2017)).

The title track, at just over half an hour, progresses organically, underlying continuity being provided by a core cell sounded out in the saxophone duet with which it opens. The music traverses an inventively varied landscape, Dunmall and Schubert alternating and combining as their lines are gradually pretzel-twisted, a hedonistic mix rising in intensity and urged on by tumbling drums. There are arresting interludes for bass, first plucked, then bowed, after the last of which the music rises slowly from within and fades gently with overlapping statements of the core motif.

‘Talbot’ has moments of tremendous heat, escalating from sizzling to pan-flame as the saxophones sound out within a narrow range, almost as one, balanced against nocturnal passages made up of rattling bass, percussive clicks and split notes. ‘Blues is the Colour of my Beloved’ is a broken blues shuffle eventually transformed into repeated phrases and rapid exchanges; insistent and compelling, simple but effective.

Paul Dunmall, Percy Pursglove, Tony Orrell ‎– Nothing in Stone (FMR, 2018) ****

A gig recorded at Jazz at the Bristol Fringe, Clifton (some good pubs) in September 2017, with Dunmall switching between tenor, alto and soprano, Percy Pursglove on trumpet, doubling double bass, and Tony Orwell, drums, whose association with Dunmall goes back to their days in the band Spirit Level. I’d not come across Pursglove on bass before, but as can be heard on the title track, he has a fine, meaty sound, he and Orrell providing a pulsating backdrop for Dunmall’s funky tenor and rousing crescendos.

The other two lengthy pieces are good examples of the subliminal connotations, fortuitous conjunctions, and metamorphic conversions favoured by free jazz and the ability of improvisers to inject and pick up on changes in pace, mood and sonority, however small. ‘Speaking in Tongues’ presents alto intertwined with trumpet sprays, moving into a calypso feel, then reduced to a shrunken bass line, brushes and saxophone plosives. Dunmall introduces a vibrato-laden melody, teased out in swirling runs supported by mallets, which is suddenly left exposed, cadenza-like. Abstract textures evolve into contractions and inversions on trumpet and sax, and the trio ends with a simple statement of the earlier tune. As the title suggests, ‘Blue India’ is a series of tableaus alluding to different realms and points of connection. Dunmall’s virtuosic soprano launches the piece with tinges of Eastern harmonies (shades of Coltrane’s ‘India’?) but the ensuing bass solo is from a distant region and the prelude to a fierce duo for saxophone and drums (intimations of Interstellar Space?) Sustained, pensive notes on trumpet grow into a stirring lament which provides the foundation for a dialogue with Dunmall, now on tenor. There’re arrhythmic patterns followed by rapid shifts in metre on bass and drums that turn intimate musings to animate surges, then just as quickly into a set of punchy blues choruses.

Paul Dunmall, Philip Gibbs, James Owston, Jim Bashford ‎– Inner and Outer (FMR, 2018) ****

This is the first of two albums recorded at Rain Studios in Kings Heath, Birmingham during August 2018: Dunmall on tenor, Philip Gibbs, electric guitar, James Owston, double bass, and Bashford again on drums.

The session can be heard as a collection of ballads, having a floating, dream-like quality as if composed from fragments of standards that can’t quite be placed. Gibbs’ chiming guitar chords and gloopy pedalling combine with a Ben Webster huskiness to Dunmall’s lingering tenor, producing beguiling layers of lushness. On occasions the contemplative mood is disturbed by bursts of hyperactivity, even wandering into the surreal. On the final track, ‘Outta Time’, a collection of feathery oscillations is concluded in a way that appears to bring the piece to an end, but after a brief silence the drums start up and the music is reanimated, taking on a darker, more aggressive tone.

Paul Dunmall, Julian Siegel, Percy Pursglove, Mark Sanders ‎– As One Does (FMR, 2018) ****

We end as we began both days of this survey, with another two-saxophone line-up – Dunmall on tenor (left), Julian Siegel, tenor and bass clarinet (right), Pursglove, doing his double bass and trumpet thing, and Mark Sanders, drums. There’s a special appeal to Dunmall about the formation, a feeling that with a skilled fellow saxophonist they can challenge each other and raise their respective games – as demonstrated across the album, two voices, crafted and expressive, each lending weight to the other. The title track opens with the fruity sound of the pair in unison, and on ‘Woe is Me FO’, Siegel creates dancing figures in serpentine lines whereas Dunmall, soto voce, takes the material in a different direction, splintering, leaving pauses, blurring. After a brief joint chorale, the two tenors merge at full-throttle, completing thoughts begun by the other. During ‘Talk with Me’ they do just that, the duet of sax and silky bass clarinet drawing on one another, creating an impassioned elegy, each new inflection deftly shaded.

Trumpet and clarinet start ‘Fine Lines of Expression’ in a solemn hymn, followed by a ravishing passage for bass clarinet, leaving it to Dunmall to take us back to the still calm of the opening theme. ‘Ever New Down the Avenue’ has a blues swagger, with deliciously reedy clarinet, burnished tenor and tight, piercing trumpet. The album closes with the optimistically titled ‘New Horizons’, muscular exchanges that twist and turn and where Sanders is Sanders: propulsive, textured and alert to all about him.

Speaking of new horizons, what next? Last November it was announced that Dunmall had received a Paul Hamlyn Foundation award, to give him the freedom to develop his creative ideas and contribute to his personal and professional growth; £60,000.00 over three years, no strings attached. At last, a man who has dedicated fifty years of his life to free jazz and improvisation is getting proper recognition. “This award has really opened up so many ideas of recordings and concerts that I can bring into fruition now,” said Dunmall, “and that is so exciting.” It looks like there’ll be plenty more catching-up to do.

Read part one here.


James Allen said...

Great reviews of the latest batch of Paul's releases Colin.
I've been listening to his various bands for most of the last 50 years and it is indeed marvellous that he was awarded the Paul Hamlyn prize.It couldn't have gone to a more worthy recipient and so rare in our music!

Anonymous said...

Its' FRANK Paul Schubert

More Dunmall out today

Colin Green said...

You mean it isn’t the same person as the composer?

There have been two further albums featuring Dunmall so far this year in addition to the one you mention:
One Became Many (FMR, 2019)
John Coltrane 50th Memorial Concert At Cafe Oto (Confront, 2019)

Anonymous said...

Maybe update the post so readers are directed to the right person instead of cracking wise?
FPS is a great musician & lovely guy who gets nowhere near the kudos he deserves. It'd be a shame if one of the few mentions he does get is incorrect due to a basic proofing error/ignorance - especially after its been politely pointed out.

Paul said...

Appreciate the note about the typo, which is beyond the authors control to fix, but has been addressed. No doubt FPS is a great musician, who has been covered on the blog, and name correctly spelled!

Colin Green said...

Indeed, FPS is a great musican, as I hope I showed in the review, the content of which appears to have escaped your attention. The error was due to a slip of the pen, as it were, which has now been corrected by the blog’s editor at my request. I am duly chastened and will try harder in my next review.