Label/Year: FMR Records, 2016
Lineup - Paul Dunmall: saxophones, penny whistle, bagpipes; Percy Pursglove: trumpet, bagpipes; Steve Tromans: piano; Dave Kane: bass; Hamid Drake: drums.
English saxophonist Paul Dunmall has built a strong reputation in the European free jazz scene throughout the years. From soliloquies to large ensembles, Dunmall never ceases to surprise through his dashing improvised statements and writing skills.
Among his successful past collaborations, saxophonist Elton Dean and drummer Tony Bianco come first in the list, while the improvising quartet Mujician with pianist Keith Tippett, bassist Paul Rogers, and percussionist Tony Levin will be always remembered for their audacity.
Dunmall’s latest was conceived for quintet and released on FMR Records, consisting of an inventive collage of 6-pieces that expands and contracts with multiple colors, textures, and rhythms.
The Dreamtime Suite opens with “Dreamtime”, a happy tune that carries a flamboyant calypso touch on its head. It brings together swing, Latin, and avant-garde jazz, in an effusive cocktail of modernity and tradition that you can picture by thinking of Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” meshed together with Lou Donaldson’s “Lou’s Blues” and bolstered by Coltrane-ish sax sounds. It unfolds within a traditional structure whose improvisational blocks are dominated by Dunmall, trumpeter Percy Pursglove, and pianist Steve Tromans. A collective divagation precedes the finale in which the main melody is suggested but not assumed.
“Warning” is firstly designed through Dunmall’s discernible driving melodies paired with Pursglove’s rapid cackles. The interaction between bassist Dave Kane and drummer Hamid Drake is, by turns, uncompromised and elated. The percussionist is truly brilliant in his vivid intensifications of rhythm, followed closely by Tromans’s nimble voicings and piano trills.
Pure melody can be found on the 15-minute “Call an Elephant” where Dunmall plays penny whistle, welcoming the altruistic coexistence between tuneful trumpet and bowed bass. The layers get denser without reaching a real chaotic state, and Dunmall, switching to tenor, sounds more lyrical than ever. The last segment of the tune is left for the pliable moves of the piano-bass-drums trio formation.
“Frame Drums and Bagpipes” is not misleading in its title. It’s a noisy and percussive Scottish babble that eventually cools down as the time passes.
The last couple tunes are jaw-dropping. “It Dawned on Me” boasts an uncompromisingly gripping groove, a true joy for the horn players, who enter into dialogue before Tromans takes the lead and work on the preparations for “Sacred Hymn”. The latter is a prayer whose spiritual and modal characteristics are perfect for Dunmall’s sinuous saxophone lines and hard-as-nails sound. His observations range from devotionally resolved to rhythmically playful.
It’s a great ending indeed for an album that feels so ordered in its apparent disorder. Dunmall keeps expanding his discography with good stuff and The Dreamtime Suite is definitely worthwhile.
01 – Dreamtime ► 05 – It Dawned on Me ► 06 – Sacred Hymn