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“Birdman” is Mujician’s 3rd effort and was released by Cuneiform Records in 1996. On “Birdman” this accomplished British free-jazz band continue their brilliant assault on modern jazz concepts and skillful improvisational execution. The opener and title cut commences with pianist Keith Tippett’s swirling piano intro, which segues into some stimulating dialogue with bassist Paul Rogers. Subtle tinkering with woodblocks and chimes is a cue for Saxophonist Paul Dunmall’s Evan Parker-ish excursions on Tenor Sax. Dunmall executes in classic “free” fashion with commanding ability and a sure-fired sense of direction. The band picks up steam and delves into a ferocious “swing” motif while the rhythm section of bassist Rogers and drummer Tony Levin chug away like a steam locomotive. Varied themes and shifting tempos take the listener on an expeditious ride as Dunmall and Tippett display boundless creativity and technical expertise. The 2nd track titled “Shubunkins” clocks in! at 31 minutes and Dunmall picks up the Chinese Shenai while Tippett strums the piano strings. This sequence emits imagery of some far away world while Dunmall’s Tenor Sax explodes in abrupt and dexterous fashion. The band opens up and once again displays outstanding chops and clever improv. “The Hands Are Just Shadows” is an airy, spacious piece. Dunmall’s fluttering and spurious linear Sax work compliments Tippett’s lower register piano chord progressions. It all meshes quite well as Rogers picks up his bass bow while adding shape and color. The hypnotic improvisation is icing on the cake. Again, Mujician performs thought-provoking pieces that stimulate the mind’s eye. Another exemplary effort from this fine band. The intensity level and sense of movement is vigorous while these fellows also exceed at chronicling ethnic topics, utilizing their encyclopedic knowledge of modern jazz genres. “Birdman” is surely a “5 Star” effort and should be deemed essential listenin! g for jazz modernist’s.
Paul Rogers; Bass: Paul Dunmall; Alto and Tenor Saxes, Chinese Shenai: Keith Tippett; Piano, Woodblocks, Pebbles, Chimes: tony Levin; Drumes, Percussion.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.