Paul Dunmall/Paul Rogers/ Philip Gibbs/Hamid Drake

Peace and Joy

Paul Rogers Quartet
Time of Brightness
Rare Music RM027

Eight years and a pair of different collaborators separate Time of Brightness and Peace And Joy, yet both long-form CDs confirm the consistent and evolving talents of reedist Paul Dunmall and multi-string bassist Paul Rogers, both from the United Kingdom. If the later seems a tad more exciting, it’s probably that the two have had more experience together and that the disc features one of Free Jazz’s most accomplished percussionists, American Hamid Drake.

Not that British drummer Tony Levin takes a back (drum) seat to anyone with his inventive percussive layering on 1997’s Time of Brightness. That disc is definitely Free Jazz however, while Peace And Joy, from 2005, adds something extra. On its own Time of Brightness is memorable as well, since it illuminates how the ingredients that make up a long-standing quartet can alter by changing merely one-quarter of the equation.

Since 1990, Levin, Dunmall and Rogers, plus pianist Keith Tippett have constituted Mujician, one of the U.K.’s pre-eminent improv ensembles. Levin, whose accomplishments begin with backing British jazz legends such as Joe Harriott and Tubby Hayes; Tippett known for his large groups and King Crimson association, Dunmall, who has played R&B, ecstatic jazz and hardscrabble bagpipes; and Rogers who has backed folks ranging from BritImprov trombonist Paul Rutherford to Italian composer Stefano Maltese; fused into a combo of near-telepathic connection. Thus the stylings of Sophia Domancich, a conservatory-trained French pianist add unexpected challenge to the CD.

Similarly, Dunmall and Rogers use two lengthy – more than 22½ minutes and just under 32 minute – compositions to blend their ideas with those of Chicago’s Drake and guitarist Philip Gibbs, who has recorded many sessions with Dunmall himself. Over the course of the disc, the six-string player has to find a place for himself in the ensemble, especially because Rogers, who played an unusual five-string bass in 1997, and now spots a seven-string model, is capable of both guitar and double bass capacity.

Firmly in the mold of the classic John Coltrane Quartet – as is Mujician –the Rogers-led band on Time of Brightness relies as much on Domancich’s melding of wide-handed chording and tremolo dynamics as the regulars’ trio work to position his compositions.

Dunmall, playing only tenor saxophone, is on the Trane track as well, and throughout the four sections of “Bear Moon” he moves from wide, balladic intervals to piercing multiphonics and back again. Basing his press rolls and sudden, floating flams as much on Max Roach’s advances as Elvin Jones’, Levin waits for the final section before spectacularly letting loose – with his bass drum pops, snare rattles and cymbal resonation faithfully backed by the pianist’s high-frequency, organic key clicks, slices and snaps.

By this time the compositional climax had already been reached and this section finds the saxophone overtones, doits and near-body-tube splitting expostulation pushed towards moderato with a few drum taps and Rogers suggesting “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” with his lyrical picking. During that earlier climax, Domancich’s tremolo dynamics plus Levin’s slaps and crashes frame the exposition from Rogers’ abrasive string ratcheting plus Dunmall’s staccato, glottal tongue stops.

Contrapuntal lines from each of the players carry on into the concluding “Time of Brightness”, in the form of staccatissimo, almost stop-time keying from the pianist, quivering bass lines and drum ruffs plus a diaphragm vibrato from Dunmall. This reed display resolves itself with palindrome-like variations that twist, turn, upend and re-jig every squealed and emphasized note.

Eight years later Peace And Joy’s two instant compositions exhibit polyphonic tenderness as much as bellicose agitato sounds. Essentially the solipsistic presentation has been expanded to take in Drake’s World music vector plus folk and rock music inferences from Gibbs’ guitar. Besides Rogers’ expanded timbres, Dunmall now highlights tones unlike his tenor playing – nasal soprano saxophone squirts and quivering bagpipe huffing.

As the title track showcases distinctive interludes with Drake’s wobbling and concussive hand-drum beats, Dunmall’s output evolves from serpentine tremolos to hunter’s horn-like echoes, and Rogers’ playing alternately suggests woody slap bass or kalimba-like strokes. Then everyone is given even wider scope on the half-hour plus “Music is Like Oxygen”.

Notwithstanding that Dunmall’s slender bagpipe timbres only sound briefly during an intermezzo where the instrument’s military past is emphasized by taut, parade-ground raps from Drake’s snare, careful listening reveals that that the reedman’s tone is achingly similar on sax and chanter. Of course, pitchsliding and mouse squeaks are expressed more easily with a reed. Overall, though, his flutter tongued patterns never overpower the others’ work; although an a capella investigation of striated and screeched drones with extensive finger vibrato impresses with its sheer bravura.

Meantime Rogers guides sul ponticello lines into tremolo double strokes, while Gibbs’ licks evolve into chromatic runs, sometimes indistinguishable from the bassist’s slurred fingering. A crescendo is reached with echoing saxophone note clusters, that after a couple of minutes join antiphonal cross-swerving lines from Rogers, single-stroke cymbal ringing and rim shots from Drake and Gibbs’ guitar reverberations. Alongside others’ timbres, Dunmall’s reed outbursts plateau, then descend and fade into legato undulations.

Any Free Music follower will find much to appreciate on either CD.

— Ken Waxman


Track Listing: Peace: 1. Peace And Joy 2. Music is Like Oxygen

Personnel: Peace: Paul Dunmall (soprano saxophone, cabrette bagpipes); Philip Gibbs (guitar); Paul Rogers (seven-string A.L.L. bass) and Hamid Drake (drums)

Track Listing: Time: 1. Bear Moon I 2. Bear Moon II 3. Bear Moon III 4. Bear Moon IV 5. Time of Brightness I 6. Time of Brightness II

Personnel: Time: Paul Dunmall (alto and tenor saxophones); Sophia Domancich (piano); Paul Rogers (five-string bass) and Tony Levin (drums)