It's increasingly difficult to put multi-instrumentalist Paul Dunmall's playing in the proverbial nutshell. With his flexible vibrato, long flowing lines and buttery tone, especially on soprano, he can sound like any number of players. Throw in a penchant for brief and staccato phrases, high-register utterances and the occasional growl and it is safe to say that he's a master of multiple vocabularies. Here, we find him in the company of three long-time collaborators, guitarist Philip Gibbs, bassist and label owner Nik Stephens and, yet another label owner, Trevor Taylor on electronics. These two long improvisations were recorded at the Oxford Club in 2010.
The music is perfectly complemented to Dunmall's playing in that it is fluid, constantly morphing and always fresh, defiant of simple or superficial categorizations. A lot of this can be explained by Taylor's contributions, which, like Tony Oxley's use of electronics, tend to come in flowing and shifting streams of sound, replete with particles of various shades. Stephens' arco work is as beautiful as his pizzicato tones are round and full, and then there's Gibbs. As always, he manages to sound like an orchestra unto himself, his tones bending and twisting with grace and delicacy. His playing could be compared with that of Mary Halvorson, whose rapid-fire warps, swings and roundabouts have become a trademark, but Gibbs may be even more subtle. He is responsible for crucial points at which the music comes together in novel ways. Check out his work on the second long track, where the music takes on the feel of a slowly swinging ballad. Stephens is loping along, Dunmall is spinning out gorgeous chromatic lines of something I feel like I should recognize, and Gibbs puts the whole thing into focus with a few well-chosen pretty curving notes. This is an excellent disc, one of the better offerings from these very prolific musicians.
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