Paul Dunmall Moksha Big Band: I Wish You Peace (2005)
By Ken Waxman
Unquestionably a 50th birthday present to himselfand his listenersI Wish You Peace may be viewed as an attempt by British saxophonist Paul Dunmall to sum up his musical experiences after a half century of life. Yet it's as much a reflection of the present and future as the past.
Writing the three-part suite at a time when the war in Iraq was in full battle mode, Dunmall's spiritual preoccupations seem a bit overcome by bellicose motifs in this recording, initially premiered on BBC Radio 3. Still the title reflects the reedman's desire for humankind to achieve a non-warlike serenity.
As for the band's nameMoksha is a Hindu word meaning the final liberation of the soul. It references the sort of transcendental consciousness that Dunmall and others first experienced in the '60s and have migrated to the 21st Century. Like certain orchestral showcases for saxophonists recorded at the time by Pharoah Sanders, John Coltrane, and Archie Shepp, "I Wish You Peace" is very much a concerto for Dunmall, with the ever-inventive saxophonist taking the greatest amount of solo space.
The most prominent secondary voices belong to Dunmall's associates in small groups. The rest of Mujician, bassist Paul Rogers, drummer Tony Levin, and especially pianist Keith Tippett, make the most obvious contributions, as do Philip Gibbs on guitar and autoharp, drummer Mark Sanders, and guitarist John Adams, who often play in the saxophonist's trio. Giving Dunmall the space to improvise, conductor Brian Irvine is along to direct the horns: Gethin Liddington and David Priesman on trumpets; Hilary Jeffery, Paul Rutherford, and Chris Bridges on trombones; plus Simon Picard and Howard Cottle on tenor saxophones.
"Part Two" makes the most use of the other players. Parting the smeary horn and brass hocketing, Tippett offers up a brief improv that bounces between a montuno section and near bop, while Dunmall's concise tenor statements unfold on top of bounces and flams from Levin and Sanders. Hummingbird-swift chromatic runs and slurred high-pitched variation are then exhibited by one of the brassmen, almost a cappella. When the guitarist's output turns more abstract with counterlines and thumb pops, Dunmall, who has been involved in offbeat theme development throughout, turns to exploded multiphonics, as the two sweep into a modern Jim Hall and Sonny Rollins duo. Massed horn interludes sneak in and out of the audio picture just behind the two, climaxing in unison dissonance.
With textures and timbres often felt as well as heard, Dunmall's three-part suite manages to replicate the cacophony of war in such a way that the individual expression of the composition gives hope that peace will arrive. What a birthday celebration it is.
Track Listing: I Wish You Peace Part One; Part Two; Part Three.
Personnel: Gethin Liddington, David Priesman: trumpet; Hilary Jeffery, Paul Rutherford, Chris Bridges: trombone; Paul Dunmall: soprano, tenor saxophone; Simon Picard, Howard Cottle: tenor saxophone; Keith Tippett: piano; John Adams, Philip Gibbs: guitar; Paul Rogers: bass; Tony Levin, Mark Sanders: drums.