Paul Dunmall & Mark Sanders: Unity

John Sharpe By

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Paul Dunmall & Mark Sanders: Unity
In spite of a decades long association, Unity constitutes only the second time British reed icon Paul Dunmall has appeared on disc in tandem with drummer Mark Sanders. And on the earlier occasion, Pipe And Drum (FMR, 2012), Dunmall restricted himself entirely to bagpipes of various species, so this outing is notable as the first documentation of the pair together on their primary instruments. The union of two of the country's premier improvisers doesn't disappoint.

Dunmall increasingly wears his affection for John Coltrane on his sleeve, but unlike many derives his inspiration from Trane's later years, as attested by his Sunship Quartet (heard on The John Coltrane 50th Memorial Concert (Confront, 2020) and his tributes with drummer Tony Bianco (Homage To John Coltrane (SLAM, 2015) being just the most recent). But while the influence is clear, Dunmall has developed his own distinctive style which allies the passion with an unhurried calm. Interstellar Space (Impulse, 1974) may offer the obvious reference point, but this is controlled free jazz not a conflagration.

Sanders works hand in glove with the saxophonist, matching dynamics and pacing. He conjures both momentum and cohesion from a broad palette of tonal colors which encompasses metal, wood and skins. The opening "Dwelling In Unity" demarcates the territory as Dunmall's insistent alto surfs on waves of rumbling drums, working over extemporized motifs which furnish the basis for further extrapolation. He imparts a searching incantatory quality to his lines which ultimately acquire a meditative, yet still muscular, air.

Given his reputation, Dunmall also brings a surprisingly melodic feel to the program, manifest most prominently in the repeating variations at the close of the conversational "The Vacuum," but also apparent elsewhere. Sanders propels the laid back and mysterious "The Quiet Mind" with gently throbbing brushwork and resonant gongs, delicately embroidered by Dunmall's false-fingered tenor breathiness. It's not until the final "Henry Grimes," a nod to the late bassist with whom Dunmall shared a blistering performance at the 2008 Vision Festival, captured on Opus De Life (Porter, 2009), that he applies the anticipated expressive overtones and distortion, in a closure which is both lament and celebration.

Track Listing

Dwelling In Unity; There's The Distance; The Quiet Mind; The Vacuum; Henry Grimes.


Paul Dunmall: saxophone; Mark Sanders: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Paul Dunmall: alto, tenor, C melody saxophones.

Album information

Title: Unity | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: 577 Records

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