Paul Dunmall Sun Quartet – Ancient and Future Airs (CF 138 )
Denman Maroney Quintet – Udentity (CF 137)
Dunmall’s visit to New York’s The Living Theater (1) finds him in a slightly unfamiliar setting given his recent work on Slam. With a trio of longtime associates, this Vision Festival set finds him in a more reflective mood alongside Malaby, whose blend of melancholy and fire has become ever more singular of late (not least in his work in Helias’ Open Loose trio). Norton’s vibes are absolutely central to the textural range of these long pieces. While “Ancient Airs” opens rather slowly, the race is on after a while, with contrapuntalism firing up the engine. Dunmall and Malaby make for a wonderfully contrastive tenor tandem, fierce in the right measure without resorting to mere burning. I reckon it’s hard not to wail once Norton hits the traps and gets things churning with Helias, but this music never loses its focus and there’s always something lyrical happening. As ever, I find it quite an exhilarating experience when Dunmall rocks the pipes, but he does so quite judiciously. After the piece plateaus, it sounds as if the band is cycling through some refracted version of Coltrane’s “One Up One Down,” audible especially with Malaby’s vertiginous solo at about the 35-minute mark. Helias’ sweet bass solo is pleasantly modal after the fury preceding it, and it cues up a somewhat (yes) airy ending. The second improvisation, at a mere 10 minutes, is a tad bitty and doesn’t really get going anywhere. But this one’s a keeper nonetheless.
Having long been a fan of Denman Maroney’s unique sound world—his “hyperpiano” is the most radically prepared innenklavier imaginable—I confess that it’s really only with this recording (2) that I realized how rhythmically acute a musician he is. His bowls, and buzzing devices, and blocks have created a richly tex-tured idiomatic extension of the piano, but these nuanced, percolating compositions are bouncing inventions that recall some fusion of Rothenberg’s Double Band, John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet, and Mark Dresser’s Force Green band from the 1990s (of which Maroney was a key member). This high praise is emphatically deserved. Beyond this general appraisal (and really, just go get this one), I have to give it up for the engine room specifically. Radding and the superb Sarin are so good, with power and grace combining almost imperceptibly, that you could risk overlooking everything else as you simply concentrate on their playing. But then there’s the exceptional contrast between the clarion lines Ballou reels out, and
Rothenberg’s intense playing, with horns as rhythmic generators fueled by circular breathing, overblowing, and more. And the tunes are pretty fabulous too, with the post Bop line on “II” sounding almost like a late 1960s Ornette tune. The loping pulse of “III” is a perfect context ready to be agitated by the heady sound of scraped metal, a continual staggering which eventuates in a stunningly inventive “piano trio” improvisation. Absolutely killer alien tones! There are soft percussive thwacks and layered tempi from the horns on “IV” and a post-Dave Burrell mutated stride thing that opens up “V.” The disc eventually loops back to the feel of beautifully fractured post Bop on “VII,” with a brilliant piano trio section again. A fantastic disc, and a strong candidate to show up on my year-end list.
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