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Paul Dunmall Octet: Bridging The Great Divide

Mark Corroto By

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Let’s face it, the idea of an improvising octet recording conjures thoughts of Machine Gun, the Peter Brötzmann's full frontal assault from 1969. It’s a masterpiece, but you cannot hum along with it, and honestly, besides scaring your neighbors, why play it more than once?

Listenability is the reason to drop the needle, er put the CD laser to a Paul Dunmall recording. His music is created to be listened to, not just be a great cathartic experience for the musicians. When he records his octet, he creates a flow of improvised jazz, folk, bebop, and classical forms—a sort of structured improvising that even Herr Brötzmann has taken to lately in his Tentet recordings. Dunmall’s Octet includes the members from the jazz collective Mujician—Keith Tippett, Paul Rogers and Tony Levin, plus two trombones, a trumpet and a second tenor saxophone.

This live date from the 2002 “Jazz em Agusto” festival in Lisbon recreates the 2000 five-part movement recording of Great Divide (Cuneiform), using it as the skeletal frame for this outing. This lengthy piece, nearly an hour long, plays out as an epic journey of music. The disc opens with a four minute bagpipe solo by Dunmall, before a thunderous drum roll segues into a post-bop intermission. From there Dunmall and crew weave passages of lengthy improvisation and freedom. The musicians think, “score, we don’t need no stinkin’ score!”; they know the design and follow Dunmall’s cues to create an elastic living document.

For this part the leader reminds listeners of both early and late Coltrane, touching on bebop to interstellar space. Fans of Keith Tippett’s inside the piano works and Paul Rutherford’s bone-talk will also be satisfied. I for one continue to be an admirer of the solo work of bassist Paul Rogers. He can walk the walk and make his music talk.

The encore finds Dunmall, Levin, Rogers and Tippett back on stage for a (brief) nine minute free jazz workout, a musical release from the structure of Dunmall’s epic.


Track Listing: The Great Divide; Wind.

Personnel: Paul Dunmall - Tenor Saxophone, Bagpipes; Paul Rutherford - Trombone; Malcom Griffiths - Trombone; Gethin Liddington - Trumpet; Simon Picard - Tenor Saxophone; Keith Tippett - Piano; Paul Rogers - Bass; Tony Levin - Drums.

Title: Bridging The Great Divide | Year Released: 2004


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