Reedman Paul Dunmall and bassist Olie Brice have collaborated on many occasions, with Palindromes (West Hill Records, 2020) and John Coltrane 50th Memorial Concert At Cafe Oto (Confront, 2019) only the most recent offerings. They supplement that tally with The Laughing Stone, a studio duet captured in November 2021 in Birmingham, England. Now one of the elder statesmen of the British scene, the prolific Dunmall has appeared alongside luminaries ranging from Evan Parker to William Parker and many more besides, while Brice has spent the last decade establishing himself not only as one of the country's premier bassists, but also a composer of note, witness his excellent Fire Hills (West Hill Records, 2022) outing.
Unhindered by charts, they present five joint inventions defined by Dunmall's choice of instrument. Over the years he has played almost everything that can be blown, famously including bagpipes in multiple guises. However, here he selects some more amenable woodwinds with which to engage Brice. He starts on tenor saxophone, perhaps his most potent axe, on "Shuffle And Bark," covering a range of moods of which the most prevalent is mellow and relaxed, even melodic at times. Brice relays an oblique counterpoint, with a rhythmic element which matches the momentum of Dunmall's lines.
On "Dust Swirling" Dunmall opts for clarinet, evoking a conversational chamber feel, with Brice's arco creating a pleasing contrast in registers. The saxophonist switches to alto on "As Ripples Skip In A Shadow," where his light airy tone manifests in fluttering runs separated by beseeching sustains in a free bop style which echoes the opener. He turns to flute on the mournful and stately "Lit Feathers Sweeping Snow." But after that he returns to tenor to conclude a set which carefully builds to a satisfying splendid denouement in the fractious exchanges of "Let The Fox Have His Fill." Here the physicality of Brice's pizzicato vies with Dunmall's muscular tightly coiled figures, and when he bursts into multiphonic howls it prompts Brice to explode in a welter of splintering overtones.
Dunmall and Brice nurture a sturdy connection based on the tradition, but their gaze looks determinedly beyond it.
Shuffle and Bark; Dust Swirling; As Ripples Skip in a Shallow; Lit Feathers Sweeping Snow; Let the Fox Have His Fill.
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