This was reportedly the first time these four musicians played together – but you wouldn't know it.
There's a solidness and depth to the three long improvisations (and one brief encore) that indicates
serious empathy at work. Of course the three younger LIMA associates, Bourne, Davis and Kane are a
working band with their own methods, but the addition of a revered tenor-man who cut his teeth in the
spiritually-charged free-jazz revolutions of the late 60s/early 70s seems to lend this an extra layer
of seriousness. In short, this is some heavy free jazz. There's a sustained energy throughout – even
in the more contemplative moments – that gives these spontaneous constructions an unflagging sense of
coherence, structure and shape. The rhythm section is a constant, boiling presence and Bourne's urgent
stabs and runs turn up the urgency like the flick of a switch. When the third section, ‘Black Sun,' finds
its way into an abstract swing of headlong forward propulsion, Bourne comping with wide, expansive chords
and Dunmall, in full post-Coltrane ecstatic mode, bursting forth with his huge, barrel-chested tone, it's
an utterly exhilarating hairs-on-end moment. Thank God someone's still making them like this.
Daniel Spicer Jazzwise
Each of these two vigorous quartet dates testifies to the enduring power of what Mr. Braxton calls the post-Ayler continuum.
From the outset of (1)—a live date from the University of West England—the music gives the lie to the impression some have of Dunmall as a barrel-chested howler.
The musicians establish the basic musical territory as one which, if it's not always exactly hushed, is restrained and focused more on group oscillations
of sound than on blazing expressionism of the individual. And as compelling a player as Dunmall is in this regard, I found myself drawn particularly to the
sensitive interaction between Bourne's spacious piano and Kane's upper-register arco. When the music does get rolling, it often heats up in unexpected ways.
As jabbing and emphatic as this playing often is, there is always space—not just for each player but within what they produce jointly. The huge gaps in
Bourne's barrages seem especially effective as part of the tension, although he can also play with dazzling velocity. There are lovely small ticks and
rubs on "Voluntary expressions," as tiny percussion and flecked strings bloom into little altissimo chirps and pocky-pock hands on toms.
This piece, too, gets rolling and actually introduces what initially sound like more conventional linear contributions from each player—but the effect
is almost like each player racking bowling pins for the others to knock down. The standout piece is "Black sun," which opens intensely with harsh scrapes
and all kinds of groans and overtones, slowly elevating as it becomes a lively roar. Jason Bivins Cadence, July 2010.
Moment to Moment
SLAM CD 279
Any purported differences that are supposed to divide American Free Jazz from European Free Jazz vanish under the steady assault of British tenor saxophonist Paul Dunmall when he works up a full head of improvising steam on Moment to Moment and Opus De Life.
Granted that the meeting on the first CD between the London-based saxophonist and a Leeds-based rhythm section begins with an interface more understated and timbre-searching than the spectacular blow-out he participated in with two legendary New York Free Jazzers eight days previously on Opus De Life. Yet when the saxophonist explodes into glossolalia and triple-tonguing on the more-than-19 minute "Voluntary Expressions" the distance created by the Atlantic Ocean seems to shrivel into puddle width. This is universal improvising; not British or American Jazz.
His accomplishment on these two CDs confirms that the power of the music is such that unexpectedly any date can turn into a major statement. Although the pairing between Dunmall – one of Britain's most accomplished players, known for his membership in Mujician – with drummer Andrew Cyrille and bassist Henry Grimes was a justly anticipated set at 2008's Vision Festival in New York, Moment to Moment was initially conceived as merely another provincial Dunmall gig.
Well, not really merely, but it's truer that pianist/cellist Matthew Bourne, Leeds College of Music's artist in residence; bassist Dave Kane and drummer Steve Davis have no profile compared to Cyrille and Grimes, who singly or together have played with nearly every pioneering major Free Jazz figure from Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton to Sonny Rollins and Albert Ayler. But improvisation involving seizing the moment, and that's exactly what the four did at the University of West England that day, especially the saxophonist.
With the rhythm section moving as one, Dunmall's initial response to Bourne's rolling piano chords studded with pin-pricked single notes, plus Davis' spaced rebounds and Kane's steady walking is carefully timed saxophone breaths and unfurling outward riffing. When the saxophonist finally explodes into honking and slurring, these sounds are immediately matched in double counterpoint by Bourne's high-frequency note clusters. No one looks back after that, and soon Dunmall is whistling obbligato-like behind Bourne's accelerating tone placement and Kane's chromatic coloration.
As "Voluntary Expressions" kicks into gear, upper-register reed squeaks vie for space along with piano key clips, reverberations from the wound internal piano strings and spiccato plucks from the bass. Soon a powerful rasgueado from Kane along with contrapuntal ruffs from Davis encourage the saxophonist's shaking, slurry squeals. As Bourne rappels down the scale, then tears into connective chords, the reedist's irregular pacing turns to horn-body splintering altissimo cries and guttural blasts. Finale involves Kane fuelling the interchange with triple-stopping and hand-pumping as the quadruple counterpoint dissolves into a flurry of repeated notes.
Would that Grimes, whose rediscovery early in the century was of Bunk Johnsonian-proportions, could bring the same power to his part that Kane does to his. Ignoring as well the simpering sweeps which characterize his violin solos, Grimes' bass work is adequate to apt, leaving the heavy lifting to Dunmall and Cyrille. Overall the bassist's presence appears to awake memories of Grimes' tenure with Sonny Rollins in the saxman. So much so, that the final variant of Dunmall's solo on "This Way, Please" mixes glossolalia and split tones and suggestions of half-forgotten pop tunes with which Rollins often transmogrified in his solos.
Cyrille claps, clanks, door-knocks, splashes his cymbal tops and pitter-patters ruffs, adding variety to his accompaniment. Meantime Grimes slides and stops, sometimes sawing the odd arco note. In contrast Dunmall's output is thick and blanched, with the timbres seemingly not only sourced from the bottom and bow of his horn, but his stomach and lung linings as well. Renal and guttural in expression, his horn command never falters either. On "Beyonder" for instance he slows the tempo to expose sul tasto work from Grimes, and then reanimates the reed flow with honking and nephritic runs and reed bites. Hard and tough throughout, he complements Cyrille's shuffle beat at the very end for a melodically tonal, double-tongued coda.
Two examples of Dunmall's skill, these CDs vary only in location, duration, number of sidemen and their relative notoriety. More similar than not, the improvisations featured on both can be enjoyed in the same spirit.