134CD - Paul Dunmall Quintet - Yes Tomorrow - CD plus download

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Dunmall the composer is to the fore here, delving deep into his musical history by providing a range of material that celebrates the breadth of his experience including aspects of jazz, funk and soul. The flexible ostinato based pieces are constructed around the unique musical personalities of the players; the first soloist on each track being the only preordained performance decision. Dunmall has always actively encouraged younger players and many of us have benefitted from Paul’s personal and musical generosity. That generosity is evident here – it is an album where he is happy to lay out for long stretches, trusting his band to take ownership of the material, and shape it in their own ways. Dunmall commented to me that this is “a guitarist’s album,” and indeed it is the self-assured approach and distinctive brittle sound of Saunders, right from the opening riff, which sets the album’s tone. Throughout, the guitarist is the glue that holds everything together, constantly being alive to the other musicians.’ Trombonist Foote is perfectly chosen as second horn, contrasting and complementing Dunmall and Saunders’ improvisational approaches, completely at home in this context his bravura contributions are powerful and exhilarating. Dunmall’s music has so often been underpinned by the strength of the bass and drum partnerships that he chooses, and this album is no exception. Both Owston and Bashford are superlative soloists and here they also demonstrate their seemingly telepathic understanding of each other’s musical approach: propelling the music forwards, creating an unshakeable support for the ensemble, and providing delicately beautiful interactions. Dunmall’s own improvisations are typically inventive and stylistically varied but are often more concise than perhaps we are used to – not seeking to dominate the ensemble. The final track, however, is an extended solo improvisation, providing a coda of sorts, bringing us back to earth by offering the listener a thoughtful commentary on what has gone before. - Bruce Coates 

Paul Dunmall - alto & tenor saxophones
Steven Saunders - guitar
Richard Foote – trombone
James Owston - bass
Jim Bashford -drum

Reeds maestro Paul Dunmall has built a super-large portfolio of recordings.  I’ve had my ears around a fair few of them. The presence of Steve Saunders’ guitar on Yes Tomorrow turned my eardrums back 20 years - Dunmall’s work with guitarist Philip Gibbs (check-out the recently the re-released, Onosante - a live album with Keith Tippett, piano and Pete Fairclough, drums, plus EastWestNorthSouth with Gibbs and Mark Sanders, drums, on FMR).  The roots of the current quintet, is founded in the old Gibbs/Dunmall partnership; a grouping which enabled the great reeds player to stretch his exploratory horns alongside electricity after extensive work within the seminal acoustic Mujician quartet.  The Yes Tomorrow album is not the first time Dunmall and Saunders have operated together, however the ‘stretch’ on this session is different to those I’ve heard in the past. Here the guitar is undoubtedly the centrepiece… of course tenor sax, and particularly alto sax, fire powerful oxygen, but it’s Steve Saunders’ soloing which constantly keys the lock of the overall direction of travel.  I’ve had no discussion about the recording with Mr Dunmall so the following pointers are my own suppositions, together with what the ears suggest to me.  Here are three of my indicators on this tasty album:  1.    The title and the quintet – Yes Tomorrow says to me this is a reply to a proposal Ornette Coleman made in 1959.  Tomorrow Is The Question was Coleman’s second recording for Atlantic records. Thirty years later his electric band, Primetime recorded Today, Yesterday And Tomorrow with the late great Bern Nix on a big fat electric Gibson.  The title track, Yes Tomorrow, exudes the whole the melodic ‘peg’ that Primetime was built on. The Bashford/Owston drum & bass partnership kick like the primetimers whilst at the same time playing the future-tense.  And Paul Dunmall’s 2021 alto cuts a far more ‘open wound’ than his much loved ‘tough’ tenor closed-circuit-exploits of the past.  This is future music, irrespective of its nod to the birth of ‘free improv’.  2.    On this session the solo space is not contested, rather it’s there for the taking. Something which Jim Bashford does to pertinent effect on Drum; and Steve Saunders positively macraws his way into Parrots. This willingness on Dumall’s part to give ground is not to be dismissed.  I count it as leadership.  The Big Man has some remarkable moments himself – the final solo track Every Soul is arguably his finest purely acappella moment on record – precisely because all the ‘push’ is directed inward – truly ‘soulful’.  And the opener, Micromys Minutes, though starting with Saunders, contains all the thunder and spark that listeners expect from a Dunmall tenor break.  3.    Medgar Evers…. like a lot of people of my generation I first heard the name Medgar Evers on Bob Dylan’s song Only A Pawn In Their Game.  Decades later I caught up with it again on Wadada Leo Smith’s stunning album Ten Freedom Summers. Well, done to Paul Dunmall for putting the name to music again.  If you don’t know about Medgar Evers, a guy who caught a racist bullet back in 1963, then the information is out there to read. Shame, shame, shame those bullets still get fired… and necks still get stamped on. (So, who exactly is the ‘their’ in this game?) Here, musically, there’s fine improv, mixed into tidy riffs with the Bashford/Owston drum & bass team totally calling the tune into spatial patter. I love it.  Reviews are only catchers in the rye, they aren’t a book just touchstones.  I don’t bother writing about what I don’t like… how would that help anyone? Yes Tomorrow is definitely all of next week.  Paul Dunmall’s 2021 Quintet is worth your purse. - Steve Day, May, 2022.



There are two particular features of the album that make it very special. The first is that six of the seven tracks are based on compositions by Paul which lead into either solo or collective improvisations. Paul is known as an extremely inventive improviser, arguably the most exciting improvising saxophonist in Europe and one who also enjoys a strong reputation in the USA, but he has always written compositions for certain of his groups. In improvising groups where an element of structure or composition is introduced, the themes are often quite abstract and are similar to the actual improvisations that they generate. In Paul’s case, however, the compositions draw on his previous experience with other styles, for example, his work with blues guitarist Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, or with the Divine Light Mission band in California which Paul joined in his youth and which rehearsed every day, often with Alice Coltrane. So his compositions on this CD are quite funky or soulful with a strong element of spirituality. They certainly lead brilliantly into the improvised passages on each track.  The second feature is that the quintet Paul formed for the recording session are all young players active on the Birmingham scene, both in free improvisation and in more straightahead jazz. In recent years Paul has been very keen to play with many young players who have graduated from the Birmingham Conservatoire jazz course. In this sense he is something of an Art Blakey of free improvisation. The players all rise the the challenge of working with Paul, and have all really taken to this form of freely improvised music with an element of composition. They are Steve Saunders, guitar, Richard Foote, trombone, James Owston, double bass, and Jim Bashford, drums.  I’ll try to capture the essence of three of the tracks in order to describe the music. Track 1 Micromys Minutus, is intially led by Steve Saunders on guitar backed by a haunting theme from the horns; there is a nicely effective contrast between the busy guitar and the atmospheric nature of the line from the horns backing the guitar. Steve then then solos accompanied by bass and drums. About a third of the way through the track Paul enters on tenor sax, and plays a great solo over guitar, bass and drums; this leads into a collective improvisation between trombone, sax, guitar, bass and drums. The final section is again led by the guitar and features a variation on the earlier theme with a strong groove. The piece winds down with the bass accompanied by the drums.  Track 2, Medgar Evers, has a number of different features; the composition is quite soulful and joyful; it has features of an anthem. The focus on this track is more on individual solos or duos rather than collective improvisation; Richard Foote takes a fine solo on trombone followed by an equally fine solo by Paul on tenor sax. Steve on guitar then enters, interacts with the alto and then solos over the ensemble. The track concludes with a funky theme reminiscent of certain compositions of Charles Mingus.  Track 7, the title track Yes Tomorrow, has an upbeat funky theme out of which comes a wonderful interaction between Paul on alto sax and Richard on trombone over a very strong pulse from James on bass and Jim on drums – I always think that a trombone saxophone frontline works really well. Then the track proceeds through a number of very effective interactive improvisations; there is a wonderful passage with bass and guitar with a rumbling trombone in the background, a duet between bass and drums, then a short duet between Jim on drums and Paul on alto sax before a full on passage of collective improvisation by the whole ensemble. The final track, Every Soul, is a solo improvisation by Paul on alto saxophone which draws on the bluesy and soulful aspects of the compositions on the album in a totally improvised piece that develops in a completely logical manner.  The very full and informative album notes by Bruce Coates quote Paul’s comment that ‘this is a guitarist album’ and Steve Saunders’ playing is excellent throughout. But so is the playing of the rest of the band with Richard Foote showing how strong an improviser he is, and James Owston and Jim Bashford providing exactly the rhythmic pulse that Paul’s music requires. Paul is, in fact, often content to step back, and allow the rest of the band develop the material.  I should also like to echo Bruce Coates’ comment that Yes Tomorrow is a particularly apt title for the album as the music both celebrates the past while suggesting new exciting ways forward. Yes Tomorrow features seven compositions by Paul Dunmall, plus one solo saxophone improvised track. Dunmall is known as one of Europe’s finest improvising saxophonists and is usually heard playing totally free music…The combination of his blues and soul influenced writing and the free improvisation of the subsequent solos from the group on this album creates a unique and very exciting mix of music. in recent years Dunmall has enjoyed working with young player, mostly graduates from the Conservatoire in Birmingham and has taken pride in introducing them to free jazz. On this album the quintet has Steve Saunders on guitar, Richard Foote on trombone, James Owston on bass and Jim Bashford on drums. Saunders is particularly effective throughout and Dunmall is reported (on Bruce Coates’ excellent sleeve notes) as having commented that Yes Tomorrow is very much the guitarist’s album. This is not to downplay the contribution of Foote, who interacts brilliantly with Dunmall and the strong pulse provided by Owston and Bashford. Indeed, thanks to the contributions of all five musicians, this is improvised music that really swings. -  Tony Dudley Evans, LONDON JAZZ NEWS



PAUL DUNMALL plays alto & tenor sax, and together with his quintet that consists of guitarist STEVEN SAUNDERS, trombone player RICHARD FOOTE, bassist JAMES OWSTON and drummer JIM BASHFORD, he created an exciting improvised experimental jazz sound that is likewise based around Paul’s sax. The 8 long songs leave a lot of room for improvisation, and despite a lot of experimental parts, the songs also carry beautiful original melodies. They are all composed by Paul himself, and together with the other musicians he created a fascinating album that will be mostly of interest for the fans of free jazz. - Strutter'zine



Mit Holz- und Linolschnittkunst von Paul Dunmall selber fällt Yes Tomorrow (Discus 134 CD) ins Auge. Das PAUL DUNMALL QUINTETT in Birmingham, das so einen guten Eindruck machen will, ist das Paul Dunmall Sextet von „Cosmic Dream Projection“ minus Percy Pursglove, also Steven Saunders (von Glitch) an E-Gitarre, Richard Foote (von Young Pilgrims) an Posaune und, bereits tüchtig dunmallisiert und auch im Xhosa Cole Quartet vereint, James Owston am Kontrabass und Jim Bashford an den Drums. Dunmall in seiner altmeisterlichen Souveränität als Composer-Performer mit Alto- & Tenorsaxofon braucht weder Elton Dean noch Keith Tippett, Paul Roger oder Tony Levin, um seine High-, Deep- und Profoundness zu unterfüttern, seine Visitenkarte liegt 300-fach vor. Seine Anspielungen hier sind mit 'Cosmic Communion', 'Golden Age' und 'Every Soul' als finalem Sologesang himmelwärts orientiert und herkunftsbewusst, mit 'Micromys minutus', der Zwergmaus, und 'Parrots' irgendwie tierisch und wohl auch selbstironisch, doch im Andenken an den ermordeten Bürgerrechtler 'Medgar Evers' rückgebunden an die Kämpfe, die einst Charles Mingus befeuert haben. Die Gitarre erhält besonders großen Spielraum, und Saunders nutzt ihn, von Anton Webern und den Spektralisten Murail und Grisey ebenso angeregt wie von Aphex Twin, mit spitzfingrigem Geprickel, während die Bläser wein- und melodieselig an den The Mouse That Roared-Krieg erinnern. Das Quintett stößt transatlantisch ins Zeitfenster zwischen McCarthy und dem Vietnam-Trouble zu Musik, die ihrem Plusquamperfekt spottet. Owston und Saunders bestechen mit Solos von transsubstantiativer Wandlungsfähigkeit, die Dunmall nur noch abzusegnen braucht, auch Bashfords 'Drum'-Monolog ist eine Kröte, die man gerne schluckt, und der Anschub für animierte Kollektivwallung. Saunders pickt bei 'Parrots' schon auch blaue Töne neben allerhand gelben, aber es bleibt definitiv beim beschwingten, zartbitter versponnenen Gegenteil von norwegisch. Von Coltranes Goldenem Zeitalter führen viele Stufen abwärts, aber die Posaune bewahrt doch einiges davon im Herzen. Das Titelstück zeigt in kollektiver Verve, wieviel Zukunft in Hard-Bop-Power steckt, wenn man Gas gibt, die Gitarre traktiert, den Bogen schwingt, die Backen aufbläst. Dunmall besiegelt das mit beseelter Luftakrobatik, sprudelig, hymnisch und blue. - Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY