Point of Departure review by Ed Hazell


cf-138Paul Dunmall Sun Quartet – Ancient and Future Airs (CF138)
This live set by Dunmall’s ad hoc quartet with saxophonist Tony Malaby, bassist Mark Helias, and percussionist Kevin Norton is a real meat-and-potatoes free jazz set. They stick to basics – a let’s-see-what-happens commitment to making music in the moment. It’s a tremendously enjoyable set since these four improvisers always know what they’re about, even (or especially) when there is no preconceived idea of where the music might head. The unexpected and the inevitable seem to be one and the same. The pairing of Dunmall’s deep, gruff tenor with Malaby’s lighter, cleaner sound covers a lot of sonic territory. Malaby’s strength lies in extending initial ideas into long, continuously evolving lines, often influenced by what others in the band are doing. Dunmall piles on variations of short initial ideas, tosses in contrasting linear threads, and contexts everything with a sure sense of balance and development. Their music moves and rests in different ways so the compounding of their lines varies in density and out of sync motion. They often position themselves where the other isn’t—if Dunmall is working over a short querulous phrase, Malaby deploys long celestial tones, for instance. Early on in the 50-minute “Ancient Airs,” Dunmall and Malaby build to a frenzied dialog of contrasting sonorities and melodic concepts. But with seven instruments among them, the music follows a winding course through duo and trio and quartet combinations, meditative passages, and timbre explorations. Helias is an equal voice with the horns. His arco playing blends seamlessly with the wind instruments, while his pizzicato imposes drum beat patterns that mesh with Norton. Helias and Norton really push the music aggressively during a soprano sax and bagpipes passage. Norton’s vibes adds an extra dimension to the music, its sharp metallic texture and shimmering sonority providing contrasts to the strings and horns. It’s fun and harrowing by turns, full of the warmth of fellowship and camaraderie. Basic, nourishing stuff. 
http://www.pointofdeparture.org/PoD22/PoD22MoreMoments2.html

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