Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Evan Parker/ Paul Dunmall Quartet Live at the Vortex, London

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
Evan Parker/ Paul Dunmall Quartet
The Vortex
February 26, 2009

If anything was guaranteed to banish the late winter blues, a two-tenor face-off looked to be just the ticket. Saxophone master Evan Parker's regular gig at London's Vortex Jazz Bar on the last Thursday of each month sees him hit the stage with a changing roster of British talent. While Parker and reed titan Paul Dunmall have lit up the stage together before, in ensembles such as the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, and even in small groups (I saw them at the old Vortex back in 2000), what made tonight's gig particularly special was the appearance alongside Parker of three-quarters of the improvising supergroup Mujician, with bassist Paul Rogers and drummer Tony Levin filling out the quartet.

Ever since Rogers succumbed to the economic climes of rural France, chances to hear his customized 7-string bass being put through its paces have proved few. A view widely shared it seemed, as the Vortex was full to the gunnels with several musicians among the standing room only crowd. With Dunmall and Rogers arriving only 20 minutes before the off, there was no time for discussion, which mattered not one jot to these veteran improvisors. Though not frequent collaborators (even Mujician gigs are rarities) there was empathy to spare and the group aesthetic of listening free improvisation meant that they could turn on a sixpence with only the merest cue apparent. Together their two sets comprised some 80 minutes of seamless group interplay towards the jazz end of the free spectrum, which Parker in his introduction dedicated to trumpeter Ian Carr who had died two days previously.

After a thunderous cymbal crash, the two tenors chuntered effectively for a gentle start, moving through the gears as Levin increased the intensity, until they were both flying by the seat of their pants in an intricate dogfight. Dunmall was the first to break free, spiraling above Rogers' gut-wrenchingly deep-bass twangs, and Levin's sometimes in and sometimes out accompaniment, becoming increasingly animated, ending each phrase with an upward squawk. At the conclusion came one of those seamless transitions with both the saxophonist and Rogers stopping to allow Levin to take drum solo, working slowly around his kit, extracting sharp sounds, with an almost quiet desperation. Rogers added an alternating pattern on his 7-string bass, which gradually lured both horns back to the fray for some near melodic dialogue, before it was Parker's turn to fly with abstracted mid-range lines, larded with tonal distortion. And so it went on, with an organic ebb and flow fascinating to witness.

At the start of the second set a conversational quartet evolved into a duet between Dunmall and Rogers, with Levin adding an insistent cymbal pattern. As Dunmall went for broke, Rogers grabbed his bow to saw manically, while bending his strings at the same time. Dunmall worked out of the depths, repeatedly building and then rebuilding, shimmying and rocking as the emotion poured out in a continuous stream of notes, stoked by Levin's powerful crescendos.

The saxophonists egged each other on, with their dual journeys morphing from empathy to madcap tag chases, only to end on the same sustained long note. Parker's tone was the thicker and throatier of the two, but each excelled in the avant saxophone idiom, leavening multiphonics, high chirrups and blurts, with delicate keypad pattering and sinuous sonic tracery. Parker introduced Dunmall as "Alice Coltrane's second favorite saxophonist" (in reference to the reedman's formative time spent working with the late pianist/harpist), pausing before quipping, "After me that is," for which he quickly apologized amid the laughter. Fact is both men dig into Trane's bag on occasion and unashamedly so, notwithstanding their experimental work elsewhere, with Parker almost bluesy at times.

Paul Rogers covered every inch of the fingerboard, and then some, on his custom-made 7-string bass, which resembles an unholy cross between a lute and a small canoe. He worked a panoply of innovative technique, strumming one way with his lower hand and the opposite way with the upper to produce a variable drone, or koto-like sounds, by flicking the strings with his fingers, but it was his arco work that really captured the imagination. High harmonics contrasted with lines in the cello range as his quicksilver bow flashed from side to side, while he stepped from foot to foot, intense concentration imprinted on his face.


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Warning: include(/data/websites/jazznearyou.com/www/html/templates/calendar/cal_related_cached.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/websites/allaboutjazz.com/www/html/content/article.php on line 68

Warning: include(): Failed opening '/data/websites/jazznearyou.com/www/html/templates/calendar/cal_related_cached.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/lib/php5:/data/websites/allaboutjazz.com/www/html:/usr/share/php') in /home/websites/allaboutjazz.com/www/html/content/article.php on line 68

More Articles

Read Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 15, 2018
Read Carl Bartlett, Jr. at Jazz At Kitano Live Reviews Carl Bartlett, Jr. at Jazz At Kitano
by Keith Henry Brown
Published: January 13, 2018
Read Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café Live Reviews Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: January 2, 2018
Read Terence Blanchard at Christ Church Cranbrook Live Reviews Terence Blanchard at Christ Church Cranbrook
by Troy Dostert
Published: December 29, 2017
Read Gary Peacock Trio at the Regattabar Jazz Club Live Reviews Gary Peacock Trio at the Regattabar Jazz Club
by Nat Seelen
Published: December 27, 2017
Read "Gilad Hekselman at the Cornelia Street Café" Live Reviews Gilad Hekselman at the Cornelia Street Café
by Tyran Grillo
Published: August 13, 2017
Read "Ostrava Days 2017" Live Reviews Ostrava Days 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: November 23, 2017
Read "Gary Peacock Trio at Jazz Standard" Live Reviews Gary Peacock Trio at Jazz Standard
by Tyran Grillo
Published: November 9, 2017
Read "Beth Hart at the Historic Wuppertal Statehouse" Live Reviews Beth Hart at the Historic Wuppertal Statehouse
by Phillip Woolever
Published: June 9, 2017
Read "Pat Martino Quintet at Chris' Jazz Cafe" Live Reviews Pat Martino Quintet at Chris' Jazz Cafe
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 26, 2017
Read "October Revolution in Jazz & Contemporary Music 2017" Live Reviews October Revolution in Jazz & Contemporary Music 2017
by Mark Corroto
Published: October 24, 2017