Artist: Paul Dunmall
Date of Release: 27/01/2017
Catalogue no: SLAMCD 2105
This item is currently
PAUL DUNMALL BRASS PROJECT
Paul Dunmall tenor saxophone
Olie Brice bass
Tony Bianco drums
Percy Pursglove trumpet
Aaron Diaz trumpet
Alex Astbury trumpet
Dave Sear trombone
Josh Tagg trombone
Josh Palmer tuba
Jo Sweet tuba
Ed Bennett conductor
1 Ecstatic, Unbearable Love 12:24
2 Temple of the Mother’s Presence 14:04
3 In the Cossipore Garden 12:36
4 Maha Samadhi 14:12
5 Infinite Cry 5:24
All compositions by Paul Dunmall
Recorded at the Birmingham Conservatoire 20th, 21st June 2016
Recorded, mixed, mastered by Simon Hall
Assistant engineers: Connor Yarrington and Will Brice
With his brass project “Maha Samadhi” Dunmall takes a rare step into the world of composition; the suite is based on episodes from the life of Sri Ramakrishna, 19th century Indian mystic and yogi. Paul’s recent CDs on SLAM have defined his Coltrane interests and influences; the choice of the brass project picks up further on his love of everything Coltrane.
Paul writes: “I've been wanting to do a brass project for many years and finally I got the chance. I've enjoyed writing for it and have had some very positive feedback so maybe this will encourage me to do more writing in the future.”
12/09/2017 Ken Waxman
When discussing the many serious films – not sequels or knock-off copies – whose concept, setting or plot resembles classics from earlier decades, the perception should be how well the ensuing auteur handles the material. So it is with this suite created by Paul Dunmall. A rare foray into composition by the protean tenor saxophonist, the starting point for this single reed-and-brass-choir enterprise is John Coltrane Africa Brass LP of 1961.
An unabashed Trane follower, which several CD salutes to the revered saxophonist to his credit, Dunmall’s take on Brass Project is more like Quentin Tarantino’s recasting of action films than Brian DePalma’s Hitchcock-lite emulations. Consider the spiritual antecedents. Before the saxophone became known for his work with the Mujician quartet, Dunmall lived in an ashram for a time, playing in the One Love sect’s Divine Light Mission band, even once with Alice Coltrane. The libretto for Maha Samadhi though equally mystical, is closer to Coltrane’s late-life spiritual pursuits than Africa Brass’s secular swing. It’s based on the life of Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886). Another important difference is while a variety of brass players participated in the many sessions for Africa Brass, this CD’s seven tracks feature the core band of trumpeters Percy Pursglove, Aaron Diaz and Alex Astbury, trombonists Dave Sear and Josh Tagg, and tubaists Josh Palmer and Jo Sweet, augmented by Dunmall, bassist Olie Brice and drummer Tony Bianco.
Stripped of its transcendental back story, Maha Samadhi stands on its own as capably as any contemporary film noir amplifies the atmosphere of 1940s and 1950s classics. Although un-credited, arrangements for the tunes are often dazzling on their own. “Temple of the Mother’s Presence” for instance begins with beautiful pastel harmonies, while the title tune features rococo layers that add to theme description, rather than swaddling it in unneeded tonalities. Meanwhile “In the Cossipore Garden” allows the bassist’s strongman strums and the drummer’s engrossing kit exploration to be displayed like gems a jeweler’s widow, with muted and mellow low-pitched brass textures the cloth around them. Theme elaboration result from Brice foreshadowing and later accompanying of the horns’ cantilevered support. “In the Cossipore Garden” concludes with Tagg’s rigorously tonal solo challenged by Dunmall, who splinters his responses into sushi-sized bites and climaxes with jagged and juddering tones snaking against one another.
Other brass players such as Pursglove, with his shrill staccato barks on “Ecstatic, Unbearable Love” make their presence felt, but the focus throughout is on the saxophonist’s erudite concept extension. His influences are a bit too obvious on that same track when he twice quotes from “A Love Supreme”. However after constant glossolalia and split tones asides appear throughout, where every nuance of a tone is examined as if under an aural microscope, the concluding track is an appropriate coda to the exploration that precedes it. Wrapping foghorn-like, post-Trane saxophone drones, augmented by drum rat-tat-tats and double bass pumps into a package decorated with brassy grace notes, the session defines itself as both a salute to Coltrane and a gifted expansion of Trane’s vision, fuelled by 21st Century concepts.
—Ken Waxman http://www.jazzword.com/one-review/?id=129415
23/05/2017 Ken Cheetham
Surprising though it is to find Dunmall walking hand-in-hand with composition, it is not so surprising to find that what he has written is in some way a furtherance of his near-dedication to Coltrane, regularly heard in his playing and confirmed by his recent (2015) Homage to John Coltrane, SLAMCD 292. The Brass Project’s album, Maha Samadhi, takes its inspiration from occurrences in the life of a 19th century Indian mystic, Sri Ramakrishna, and it is in this that the saxophonist echoes Coltrane’s Africa/Brass, Impulse! 1961 (and possibly Birth of the Cool, Davis/Evans, Capitol Records 1956).
Dunmall’s solo playing is quite vicious throughout and the wildly ferocious Percy Pursglove on trumpet renders the pair volcanic, as is heard in the opening track, Ecstatic, Unbearable Love. This piece is described as representing Ramakrishna’s dance with Krishna and the unbearable ecstasy this brought about.
Paul Dunmall’s music generally and indeed his playing lean towards expressing a spirituality and this album is no exception. It draws to a close with echoes of New Orleans street brass, inspiring an emotive entreaty.
Reviewed by Ken Cheetham http://www.jazzviews.net/paul-dunmall-brass-project---maha-samadhi.html
02/03/2017 George Harris
Tenor saxist Paul Dunmall leads a unique orchestra that features 3 trumpets (Percy Pursglov, Aaron Diaz & Alex Astbury), 2 trombones (Josh Tagg & Dave Sear) with 2 tubas (Josh Palmer & Jo Sweet) along with a rhythm team of Olie Brice/b and Tony Bianco/dr. Directed by Ed Bennett, the band mixes introductory thick themes with loosely swinging ensemble actions that are reminiscent of vintage Charles Mingus. Warm brass harmonies eventually delve into free form flying and squawks on pieces like “Temple of the Mother’s Presence” and the frenetic feeding frenzy of “In the Cossipore,” but the shoes fit well. Brice and Bianco gets some solo time between the long lines on the title track, and Bianco has a way of keeping every jot and tittle together. A fun white knuckler! George Harris http://www.jazzweekly.com/2017/03/paul-dunmall-brass-project-maha-samadhi/
03/02/2017 Colin Green
Miles and Gil Evans probably started the ball rolling with Birth of the Cool (Capitol, 1956), since when we’ve had albums such as Coltrane’s Africa/Brass (Impulse!,1961) and John Surman and John Warren’s Tales Of The Algonquin (Deram, 1971) and Brass Project (ECM, 1993) – large ensembles with only brass instruments and a rhythm section (sometimes supplemented with piano), no woodwind or other melody instruments. It’s a format for which Paul Dunmall has been wanting to write for many years.
The line-up is Dunmall (tenor saxophone), Aaron Diaz, Alex Astbury, Percy Pursglove (trumpets), Dave Sear, Josh Tagg (trombones), Jo Sweet, Josh Palmer (tubas), Olie Brice (double bass) and Tony Bianco (drums). The ensemble’s conducted by Ed Bennet and the compositions were written by Dunmall. The title and names of the pieces are taken from episodes in the life of Sri Ramakrishna (1836 – 1886) as documented in his The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.
With a focus on a family of instruments, there’s a homogeneity that can highlight their distinctive timbre, so that the absence of contrast becomes an advantage. With brass, it’s a richness in harmonic overtones, and collectively, a fruity and dynamic sound which packs a punch, as in the opening ‘Ecstatic, Unbearable Love’, a vivacious depiction of a dance with Krishna. There’s a searing trumpet solo from Pursglove, succeeded by Dunmall’s equally heated solo on tenor, each punctuated by glowing bursts from the brass.
Brass also excels in soft, legato lines. In ‘Temple of the Mother's Presence’ the instruments slowly appear and merge in a solemn procession of overlapping entries. As if signifying the transmutation of a stone figure – the inspiration for the piece – the elliptical theme is energised by solos for tenor, trumpet (Diaz) and trombone (Sear). Long swells over drums seem to mark the transition back to stone, save for one final glimmer of movement. ‘In the Cossipore Garden’ announces a weighty dirge on the tubas, repeated by the whole ensemble over Bianco’s billowing drums. There are solos for trombone (Tagg), followed by trumpet (Asbury), in both cases striking sparks with the rest of the ensemble. The saxophone moves us to a different level with refulgent variations on the theme, wrenching the funereal chorus into acclamation.
There’s a pervasive spiritual and expressive core to much of Dunmall’s music: the rival forces that riddle our lives and the struggle for some kind of resolution, however transient; a quest that also preoccupied Coltrane in his latter years. On the title track, there’s a tender commentary on the brass melody from Dunmall’s tenor. He’s then enlivened by the irregular syncopation of bass and drums and the saxophone quickens in mood and speed, its mercurial flow counterpointed with block-like fragments from the brass. After Brice’s solo, there’s reconciliation in a sonorous restatement of the theme, combining Dunmall’s single voice with the many.
The album ends with ‘Infinite Cry’, a stirring invocation of some higher plane, with all instruments raised in supplication, in which we hear shades of another brass band tradition, that of New Orleans.
It’s unclear why Dunmall’s music doesn’t receive more attention. He doesn’t fit into any neat category, a bar to those who prefer to listen by labels. Perhaps it’s that the more albums you produce the fewer get heard, however odd that might sound. He’s an unpretentious figure who doesn’t claim revolutionary status, only to have built on and continued the work of his predecessors. By so doing he has helped establish that free jazz is an abundant resource for creative music. Hopefully, this week of reviews will encourage more people to listen to one of the outstanding and most flexible musicians of his generation.
01/02/2017 Mike Hobart
The most obvious precedent for the slabs, smears and flutters of brass on this brash and spirited recording are John Coltrane’s Africa Brass and Ascension albums, which were recorded in the mid-1960s. English brass band sonorities and tuba-heavy New Orleans dirges are also in the mix. But the initial inspiration is the Indian mystic Sri Ramakrishna who died in 1886, aged 50. The track titles are taken from incidents in his life as written in The Gospel of Ramakrishna. They are summarised in the sleeve notes, and it is their event-laden spirituality that infuses each track and gives the album its gloss. Dunmall, the dominant voice, is featured on every track. The opening ‘Ecstatic, Unbearable Love’ finds him rippling through scales and phonics at a furious pace, and sets something of the template for what is to come. He ruminates over strong counterpoint bass on ‘Temple of the Mother’s Presence’, delivers spiritual cries on ‘in the Cossipore Garden’ and is concise and climactic on ‘Infinite Cry’. Trumpeter Percy Pursglove’s microtonal and brittle trumpet solo on the opener is a standout, as is Ollie Brice’s confident supporting brass dialogue. But it is the brass which gives the album its oomph and the spice of an original slant.
Mike Hobart JazzWise February 2017.
18/01/2017 Bruce Lee Gallanter
The Brass Project features a ten-piece
ensemble with 3 trumpets, two trombones, two tubas plus Paul Dunmall on
tenor sax, Olie Brice on bass and Tony Bianco on drums. After a deluge of
discs (65+!) from his own LTD edition Duns label, UK sax master, Paul
Dunmall, has had fewer discs coming out on the FMR and Slam labels. This
seems to a good thing since Mr. Dunmall has slowed down and works on
projects one at a time. Also, after dozens of discs as an improviser,
Dunmall has organized an impressive brass-led tentet to play music that he
composed. Aside from the regular rhythm team members, the only player here
with whom I was previous familiar is trumpeter Percy Pursglove, who has
appeared on a few older Dunmall sessions.
For this disc, Mr. Dunmall, wrote a suite of pieces based on the life of
Sri Ramakrishna, a 19th century Indian mystic and yogi. Although the
opening theme seems simple and is uplifting, the the first trumpet solo by
Pursglove and tenor solo by Dunmall are both quite explosive! While the
solos erupt, the rest of the ensemble plays tightly around them, sounding
like someone is conducting each wave. A composer named Ed Bennett is
actually doing the conducting here. Each of the five parts of the suite is
named after and inspired by an event in the life of Ramakrishna. Bassist
Olie Brice, who we know from his work with Ingrid Laubrock, is featured at
the beginning of “Temple of the Mother’s Presence” and sounds swell at the
center of the ensemble before Dunmall soon steps yp to unleash another
ferocious solo, the rest of the rhythm team burring around him. This disc
was recorded at the Birmingham Conservatory at the City University in
Birmingham, UK. So perhaps the rest of the brass members are students at
that school. Each of the three trumpeters and both trombone players all get
a chance to solo and stretch out and each one is strong. Another standout
is the drumming of Tony Bianco, another longtime Dunmall & Dave Liebman
collaborator. What stands out here is Mr. Dunmall’s writing for the large
brass section, often with several tight lines crisscrossing and moving in
interconnected layers. What this most reminds me of is the spirit, power
and sound Keith Tippett from the ‘Dedicated to You…’ and the Centipede
sessions. Mr. Dunmall was the the featured saxist for Keith Tippett’s
Mujician quartet for more than a decade so it does make sense to see or
hear that connection. Although Mr. Dunmall has long been inspired by the
playing and spirituality of John Coltrane, he never did a Coltrane tribute
until very recently. Dunmall’s fire-breathing playing and tone are at their
most Trane-like on the title track, burning brightly at the center of the
feisty tentet. Now that Mr. Dunmall’s releases have slowed down to just a
handful per year, we can savor each one for a few months until the next
chapter appears. Just say: Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… - Bruce Lee Gallanter,
DMG January 2017.
11/01/2017 Vittorio Lo Conte
Dopo le ultime incisioni dedicate alla musica di John Coltrane ed all’improvvisazione totale il sassofonista tenore inglese Paul Dunmall presenta ora una registrazione effettuata con l’aiuto del Consevatorio di Birmingham ed in cui l’aspetto compositivo è in primo piano. I titoli si riferiscono alla vita del mistico dell’India Sri Ramakrishna, ma la musica non impiega sitar o altri strumenti tipici di quel paese. Fin dall’inizio, con Ecstatic Unbearable Love si va verso una direzione jazzistica, con assoli travolgenti del leader al sax tenore e di Percy Pursglove alla tromba, supportati dagli ottoni e dalla ritmica di Olie Brice al contrabbasso e Tony Bianco alla batteria. Gli altri musicisti presenti sono Aaron Diaz e Alex Astbury alla tromba, Dave Sear e Josh Tagg al trombone, Josh Palmer e Jo Sweet alla tuba, Ed Bennett è il direttore. Nonostante la dedica al famoso mistico la musica mantiene l’aspetto delle ultime incisioni di Dunmall, e cioè movimentata, agitata, adrenalinica, energetica, anche se questa volta gli ottoni forniscono un ulteriore elemento che rende il tutto più compatto. Ecstatic Unbearable Love vuole rappresentare lo stato di estasi di Ramakrishna e ciò riesce senza ricorrere ad un free informale. Temple of the Mother’s Presence oltre al leader vede gli assoli di Aaron Diaz alla tromba (di stampo prettamente free) e di Dave Sear al trombone. Come sempre la ritmica tiene l’atmosfera vibrante, ricca di tensione. In the Cossipore Garden comincia con le tube che creano situazioni tranquille, poi arrivano gli assoli di Josh Tagg al trombone e Alex Astbury alla tromba e tutto cambia, grazie anche alla batteria di Tony Bianco, sempre concitata ed in fibrillazione. Il lungo Maha Samadhi è “illuminato” dall’assolo di Paul Dunmall, un solista di valore sullo sfondo degli ottoni, anche il contrabbassista Olie Brice riceve un lungo spazio che riempie con un assolo in cui emerge la sua maestria e padronanza tecnica allo strumento. Chiude Infinite City, ancora con un appassionato assolo del leader. Un’incisione riuscita e ricca di passione, in cui si mette insieme la forza dell’improvvisazione insieme alla partiture per gli ottoni.
Vittorio Lo Conte, http://www.musiczoom.it/?p=27223#.WHEeS_mLTct
After the latest recordings dedicated to the music of John Coltrane and improvisation total tenor saxophonist Paul Dunmall English now presents a recording made with the help of Consevatorio Birmingham and in which the compositional aspect is in the foreground. The titles refer to the life of the mystic India Sri Ramakrishna, but the music does not employ sitar and other instruments typical of that country. From the beginning, with Ecstatic Unbearable Love you go to a jazz direction, with the leaders sweeping solos on tenor sax and Percy Pursglove on trumpet, supported by the brass and rhythm of Olie Brice on bass and Tony White on drums. The other musicians are present Aaron Diaz and Alex Astbury on trumpet, Dave Sear Tagg and Josh on trombone, Josh Palmer and Jo Sweet tuba, Ed Bennett is the director. Despite the dedication to the famous mystic music it retains the form of the latest Dunmall incisions, namely turbulent, agitated, adrenaline, energy, although this time the brass provide an additional element that makes it more compact. Ecstatic Unbearable Love is meant to represent the Ramakrishna state of ecstasy and what can without resorting to a free informal. Temple of the Mother's Presence in addition to the leader sees Aaron Diaz's solos on trumpet (the purely free) mould and Dave Sear on trombone. As always the rhythm keeps the vibrant atmosphere full of tension. In the Cossipore Garden begins with the tubes that create quiet situations, then there's solos on trombone Josh Tagg and Alex Astbury on trumpet and everything changes, thanks to Tony White battery, always agitated and fibrillation. The long Maha Samadhi is "enlightened" dall'assolo Paul Dunmall, a value soloist on the background of the brass, also he bassist Olie Brice receives a long space that fills with a solo in which emerges his artistry and technical mastery of the instrument. Closes Infinite City, again with a solo leader's passionate. Incision successful and full of passion, which brings together the strength of improvisation along with the scores for the brass.
Vittorio Lo Conte, http://www.musiczoom.it/?p=27223#.WHEeS_mLTct
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