Paul Dunmall/Matthew Bourne/Andrew Cyrille/Henry Grimes

January 1, 2010

Moment to Moment

Profound Sound Trio
Opus De Life
Porter Records PRCD 4032

Any purported differences that are supposed to divide American Free Jazz from European Free Jazz vanish under the steady assault of British tenor saxophonist Paul Dunmall when he works up a full head of improvising steam on Moment to Moment and Opus De Life. Granted that the meeting on the first CD between the London-based saxophonist and a Leeds-based rhythm section begins with an interface more understated and timbre-searching than the spectacular blow-out he participated in with two legendary New York Free Jazzers eight days previously on Opus De Life. Yet when the saxophonist explodes into glossolalia and triple-tonguing on the more-than-19 minute “Voluntary Expressions” the distance created by the Atlantic Ocean seems to shrivel into puddle width. This is universal improvising; not British or American Jazz.

His accomplishment on these two CDs confirms that the power of the music is such that unexpectedly any date can turn into a major statement. Although the pairing between Dunmall – one of Britain’s most accomplished players, known for his membership in Mujician – with drummer Andrew Cyrille and bassist Henry Grimes was a justly anticipated set at 2008’s Vision Festival in New York, Moment to Moment was initially conceived as merely another provincial Dunmall gig.

Well, not really merely, but it’s truer that pianist/cellist Matthew Bourne, Leeds College of Music’s artist in residence; bassist Dave Kane and drummer Steve Davis have no profile compared to Cyrille and Grimes, who singly or together have played with nearly every pioneering major Free Jazz figure from Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton to Sonny Rollins and Albert Ayler. But improvisation involving seizing the moment, and that’s exactly what the four did at the University of West England that day, especially the saxophonist.

With the rhythm section moving as one, Dunmall’s initial response to Bourne’s rolling piano chords studded with pin-pricked single notes, plus Davis’ spaced rebounds and Kane’s steady walking is carefully timed saxophone breaths and unfurling outward riffing. When the saxophonist finally explodes into honking and slurring, these sounds are immediately matched in double counterpoint by Bourne’s high-frequency note clusters. No one looks back after that, and soon Dunmall is whistling obbligato-like behind Bourne’s accelerating tone placement and Kane’s chromatic coloration.

As “Voluntary Expressions” kicks into gear, upper-register reed squeaks vie for space along with piano key clips, reverberations from the wound internal piano strings and spiccato plucks from the bass. Soon a powerful rasgueado from Kane along with contrapuntal ruffs from Davis encourage the saxophonist’s shaking, slurry squeals. As Bourne rappels down the scale, then tears into connective chords, the reedist’s irregular pacing turns to horn-body splintering altissimo cries and guttural blasts. Finale involves Kane fuelling the interchange with triple-stopping and hand-pumping as the quadruple counterpoint dissolves into a flurry of repeated notes.

Would that Grimes, whose rediscovery early in the century was of Bunk Johnsonian-proportions, could bring the same power to his part that Kane does to his. Ignoring as well the simpering sweeps which characterize his violin solos, Grimes’ bass work is adequate to apt, leaving the heavy lifting to Dunmall and Cyrille. Overall the bassist’s presence appears to awake memories of Grimes’ tenure with Sonny Rollins in the saxman. So much so, that the final variant of Dunmall’s solo on “This Way, Please” mixes glossolalia and split tones and suggestions of half-forgotten pop tunes with which Rollins often transmogrified in his solos.

Cyrille claps, clanks, door-knocks, splashes his cymbal tops and pitter-patters ruffs, adding variety to his accompaniment. Meantime Grimes slides and stops, sometimes sawing the odd arco note. In contrast Dunmall’s output is thick and blanched, with the timbres seemingly not only sourced from the bottom and bow of his horn, but his stomach and lung linings as well. Renal and guttural in expression, his horn command never falters either. On “Beyonder” for instance he slows the tempo to expose sul tasto work from Grimes, and then reanimates the reed flow with honking and nephritic runs and reed bites. Hard and tough throughout, he complements Cyrille’s shuffle beat at the very end for a melodically tonal, double-tongued coda.

Two examples of Dunmall’s skill, these CDs vary only in location, duration, number of sidemen and their relative notoriety. More similar than not, the improvisations featured on both can be enjoyed in the same spirit.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Moment: 1. Moment to moment 2. Voluntary Expressions 3.Black Sun 4. The Face

Personnel: Moment: Paul Dunmall (tenor saxophone); Matthew Bourne (piano and cello); Dave Kane (bass) and Steve Davis (drums)

Track Listing: Opus: 1. This Way, Please 2.Call Paul 3. Whirligigging 4. Beyonder 5. Futurity

Personnel: Opus: Paul Dunmall (tenor saxophone and bagpipes); Henry Grimes (bass and violin) and Andrew Cyrille (drums)