PAUL DUNMALL/DAVE ALEXANDER/TIM WELLS

Live in London
DUNS Limited Edition DLE 0015

One of the busiest free jazz saxophonists in Europe, Londoner Paul Dunmall, like many other musicians, seems to have spent the past few years recording every gig he could. Now that he has his own label, the aptly named DUNS Limited Edition, he’s finally able to give wider currency to exceptional performances like the two on this CD.

No practitioner of the almost clichéd, British breath-control school of reed playing, Dunmall makes his mark in such ensembles as the cooperative Mujician band the London Jazz Composers Orchestra as an upright, straightahead player, whose hairy-chested overblowing doesn’t neglect volume and vibrato.

This session, made up of two overlong (almost 38 minutes ands just over 40 minutes) pieces, recorded four months apart almost 10 years ago at a small London club proves this. Seconded by the forceful drumming of Dave Alexander — all cymbals and snares — and what seem to be bassist Tim Wells’ fingers of iron, the performance could be even older. Unlike some self-consciously European example of BritImprov, it’s unabashedly an extension of the tradition of energy music that grew up in the 1960s and whose benchmarks remain the jaw-clenching spasm of sounds made by tenor men John Coltrane and Albert Ayler.

Completely his own man, Dunmall ranges throughout these works in many time signatures and tempos. At time he conjures up the image of a canny shopper in a market town fair. He weighs and measures different notes, tones, slurs, pitches, phrases during the course of his mammoth solos, toying with some from different angles and at diverse speeds, discarding some, reshaping others until he’s satisfied. One minute he’ll construct a passage out of screaming, elevated glossolalia, other times he’ll measure out a blanket of extended mid-range notes. It’s a credit to the bassist and drummer that they can follow him. And while each gets a bit of solo space, it’s the saxophonist’s show all the way.

Dunmall has released so many impressive CDs recently, on his own and with other bands, that one ends up with the embarrassment of having to say why this excellence is different than another excellence. It isn’t really.

Oh, on the first track Dunmall is supposed to be improvising on the C-melody saxophone, an antique dance band staple that was pushed out the jazz spotlight when Coleman Hawkins asserted the might of the tenor in the late 1920s. But to be honest the creation doesn’t sound much different than on the other track when he’s supposed to be playing tenor and there seems to be no diminishment in his playing.

Whatever the axe, Dunmall is definitely in the lineage of tenor masters like Hawkins and Trane and LIVE IN LONDON just proves it one more time.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1.What rumours? 2. These rumours

Personnel: Paul Dunmall (C Melody saxophone, tenor saxophone); Tim Wells (bass); Dave Alexander (drums)