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Paul Dunmall with Paul Lytton & Stevie Wishart: In Your Shell Like (2003)

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Paul Dunmall with Paul Lytton & Stevie Wishart: In Your Shell Like Paul Dunmall releases continue to pour out at a prodigious rate—about one a month on his own Duns label and others—and it's difficult to keep track of them all.

In addition to his work on saxophones, Dunmall continues to raise the profile of the border bagpipes as an instrument for improvisation. Although at first they may have been considered an interesting novelty—and maybe evidence of his past associations with folk musicians—bagpipes must now be considered one of Dunmall's principal instruments, on a par with the tenor and soprano saxophones. With this in mind, promoter Jean-Michel van Schouwberg arranged for improvising hurdy-gurdy player Stevie Wishart to join a musical meeting of Dunmall and Paul Lytton.

It turns out to have been an inspired move. On the opener, "Shells and other things, a duo between Dunmall and Wishart, the drone of the pipes is complemented by that of the hurdy-gurdy so that the two become inextricably entwined, over the top of which Dunmall adds an ever evolving melody line. Some traditionalists will doubtless be horrified at this use of the pipes and hurdy-gurdy, while the rest of us just listen in open-mouthed pleasure. Midway through this track, Dunmall switches to soprano sax, giving a restrained performance which affords the hurdy-gurdy equal status, rather than cutting loose and blowing.

Dunmall is more animated on his two duos with Lytton, "Nothing to do with shells, where he plays tenor, and "It's in your ear, where he plays soprano. On tenor sax, Dunmall pours forth typically full-tilt, adrenalin-inducing, Trane-inspired performances that include a relentless torrent of ideas. It is interesting to hear Paul Lytton play with a saxophonist other than his frequent associate Evan Parker. In a duo where he has to match Dunmall stride for stride, Lytton gives as good as he gets, playing at breathtaking speed but also responding to and enhancing Dunmall's ideas. At over fifteen minutes, this is one of the album's highlights. The duo with soprano sax is far shorter but has the same intensity and energy.

The last two tracks feature all three players together, with Dunmall again using pipes to good effect on "The ears have it. His playing is an intriguing amalgam, clearly displaying the influence of traditional and folk-based pipes, going beyond the accepted boundaries but tacitly accepting their existence. I suppose that is similar to the way his sax playing relates to jazz: going outside the boundaries not ignoring them. Dunmall and Lytton are far more restrained and reflective than on their duos, no doubt in deference to the hurdy-gurdy. Indeed, this is like two contrasting albums, one with hurdy-gurdy and one without.

It would be difficult to claim that Dunmall never makes a bad album; like most listeners, I cannot claim to be keeping up with all of them. Nevertheless, this is definitely well up to scratch.


Track Listing: Shells and other things; Nothing to do with shells; Its in your ear; The ears have it; In your shell like.

Personnel: Paul Dunmall: border bagpipes, soprano and tenor saxophone; Stevie Wishart: hurdy-gurdy; Paul Lytton: percussion.

Record Label: Emanem

Style: Modern Jazz


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