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Album Review

Paul Dunmall - Matthew Shipp - Joe Morris - Gerald Cleaver: The Bright Awakening


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Paul Dunmall - Matthew Shipp - Joe Morris - Gerald Cleaver: The Bright Awakening
British saxophonist Paul Dunmall reaffirms the transcendent power of free jazz with a muscular quartet convened for his triumphant appearance at the 2012 Vision Festival, for which he invited pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist Joe Morris and drummer Gerald Cleaver to join him. The pianist and reedman were well acquainted, having hooked up during a Shipp residency at London's Cafe Oto in 2010, with the group captured for posterity on Live In London (FMR, 2017). While Dunmall had not previously played with Morris or Cleaver, both had been mainstays of earlier Shipp outfits, so a certain degree of cohesion was assured.

Signs of how well Dunmall and Shipp mesh arise early on when they lock onto a nagging two-note alternation to electrifying effect, pushing an already energized opening into the stratosphere. That is just the first instance of a shared predilection for tension-building repetition, which also affords a launchpad for further pyrotechnics. Dunmall's fast spiraling lines often pause on such snags, before he crowns his phrases with beseeching cries or guttural honks. For his part, Shipp uses such reiterated patterns to prompt and prod, when he is not propounding his own sparkling runs, or slamming the bass register in thunderous support.

Morris and Cleaver establish a seething foundation which allows multidirectional activity to flourish without rhythmic constraint. Morris avoids riffs, although he too sporadically harks on favored motifs amid his otherwise oblique commentary. Cleaver keeps his chattering pulse spicy, whether with occasional bursts of time or dropping bombs. He is implicated in a couple of notable episodes, first as he elevates even higher an extended plateau attained as Dunmall unfurls another measured exhortation, and then when he invokes an invigorating staccato boogaloo once the tenor falls silent.

Dunmall's final hopeful-sounding valediction, spun out over typically bustling accompaniment, encapsulates the title perfectly and caps an impassioned performance.

Track Listing

The Bright Awakening.


Paul Dunmall: saxophone; Matthew Shipp: piano; Joe Morris: guitar; Gerald Cleaver: drums.

Album information

Title: The Bright Awakening | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Rogue Art

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