Paul Dunmall
It’s A Matter Of Fact
Discus 148CD
(2023)
Available formats: CD/DL

 

“This is music for the heart, mind and souls of us all.” – Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery NYC  

“This is quite simply ensemble playing of the very highest quality, made particularly refreshing and exciting by Tippetts’ signing and vocal gymnastics.” – Chris Baber, JAZZ VIEWS

“An extremely satisfying release on so many levels it’s one of the best UK originated albums of 2023 so far.” – marlbank.net

Paul Dunmall – tenor and soprano saxophones
Julie Tippetts – voice
Charlotte Keeffe – trumpet and flugelhorn
Richard Foote – trombone
Steven Saunders – electric guitar
James Owston – double bass
Jim Bashford – drums
Martin Archer – alto and baritone saxophones, harmonica

Paul’s dynamic Birmingham quintet’s release Yes Tomorrow was a Discus highlight of 2022. We enjoyed the release so much that we took the unusual step of suggesting he add Julie and Charlotte to the group to make a second release. Paul embraced the idea with enthusiasm, and came up with this suite for the expanded group. The result is a freewheeling set with a great “live gig” feel, which gives plenty of space for each player to shine, and which mixes some tight compositions with open ended improvisation sections.

In particular it is great to hear Julie’s voice as part of the front line for a jazz ensemble, a role she has not performed for a long time.

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Reviews

Consider this the sequel to last year’s Yes Tomorrow by saxophonist Paul Dunmall’s young Birmingham based quintet, with that core unit augmented by trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe, veteran vocalist Julie Tippetts and Discus label boss Martin Archer. Like the previous date, the focus is on combining tightly composed hooks with free-range improvisations, but the overall vibe is more expansive and less rened in – as evidenced in the album’s book-ending first and last tracks, both pushing 20 minutes. In fact, with Tippetts on board, there’s more than a hint of Septober Energy, the 1971 classic of joyful excess by her late husband Keith’s monstrous, 50 piece Centipede ensemble, on which she also appeared. Grand themes give way to deeply swinging vamps and spacious vistas dotted with gnarled thickets of improv, and throughout it all, Tippetts delivers a bravura performance, switching from strident blues holler to twitchy peeps and trills. As well as being one of the biggest presences in UK avant-jazz, Dunmall has made strong trans-Atlantic connections, performing at New York’s storied Vision Festival with US free-jazz heavyweights including Henry Grimes and Matthew Shipp – and it’s certainly possible to hear echoes of that spiritually loaded milieu here. Dunmall is, without doubt, one of the deepest we’ve got. – Daniel Spicer, JAZZWISE

Hot on the heels of last year’s excellent ‘Yes Tomorrow’ album, Dunmall has expanded the ensemble and created a suite of 9 pieces (the final 5 grouped in 2 pieces running to 10 and 20 minutes). The opener, ‘Calling the Spirits’, at 17’33 and mixing several moods, melodies and styles acts as a suite in its own right. This begins exuberantly with Tippetts’ repeated invocation, using the tunes title, is buoyed along with rich ensemble playing and some masterful mixtures of post-bop rhythmic patterns. Dunmall then launches into a solo that is steeped in vintage bebop, drawing the ensemble to pulsating support. He then cedes the platform to Archer’s alto and Foote’s trombone and a rambunctious rhythm section, before Owston’s bass solo merges with Tippetts’ mediatative scat signing and Saunders skittering guitar lines and Keefe’s playful trumpet. As a means of introducing and showcasing the ensemble, this works well. The second, ‘Golden boat’, and third, ‘Purple Dance’, pieces have Tippetts at her most powerful and resplendent, as she effortlessly switches from delivering lyrics in a punchy rhythm to scaling the heights with wordless scat-singing. Throughout the album, her singing responds to the ensemble and they to her. Riffs from the ensemble find their way into her vocalisations and vice versa, mutating, morphing and growing in complexity. As a means of showcasing Dunmall’s compositional and arranging skills, the piece works superbly. I really enjoy the clash of styles and techniques that the piece encourages in the players and the vivacity with which they respond to this. One could list a host of experimental ensembles as reference points to illustrate the way in which each of Dunmall’s compositions comfortably mix an avant-garde attitude to breaking rules with a deeply held respect for the various generations of jazz musical idioms. But such a list would do a disservice to the richness and originality of the playing here. This is quite simply ensemble playing of the very highest quality, made particularly refreshing and exciting by Tippetts’ signing and vocal gymnastics. – Chris Baber, JAZZ VIEWS https://jazzviews.net/paul-dunmall-ensemble-its-a-matter-of-fact/

British sax colossus, Paul Dunmall, turns 70 this year and has slowed down a bit as far as new releases go. Since his label Duns folded up in 2010, Mr. Dunmall has had discs coming out on the FMR, Discus, 577 and Slam labels, just a few per year. Instead of the usual free-jazz releases, the Discus label gives their artists some breathing space to prepare for, compose in advance and spend more time in the studio to flesh out different ideas. Mr. Dunmall’s large group releases are pretty rare so it is a great thing to see & hear him have a fine octet for this release. Some of these musicians have worked with Dunmall in the past: Julie Tippetts, Richard Foote, James Owston, Steven Saunders & Jim Bashford, while the others have recorded for the Discus label: Martin Archer and Charlotte Keeffe. “Calling the Spirits” opens this disc with a strong Spiritual Jazz vibe. Over the past two decades, British jazz vocalist, Julie Tippetts, has been collaborating with Martin Archer on some six great discs. Instead of doing the ‘Free Improv’ that she has done since the early 1970’s, Ms. Tippetts is backing to doing some more song or lyric oriented material, her voice strong, spirited and singular in sound. Although she is just a member of this octet and her voice no louder than the other instruments, her sound/presence adds something special to the group. There is a middle section to the first long piece which features some slow-burn Trane-like tenor, understated yet haunting el guitar, strong trombone solo and an infectious groove to boot. Later on in the same piece, the octet play a fine freer section which is both low-key and cerebral, before they go back to the song/theme. “Golden Boat” sounds like one of those sensuous jazz/pop songs that were popular in the sixties, with Ms. Tippetts actually scatting (superbly) along with the horns & guitar, something she rarely ever does. Her vocals when she does freely improvise fit just right with the rest of the octet, trading lines the ways great improvisers often do. On “Latu/Return” Dunmall’s soprano, the guitar, voice & other horns work together effortlessly and include some strong, spirited, well-written ensemble writing and playing. The last piece, “It’a a Matter of Fact/Ahimsa/Dreaming Again” is the longest and goes through different sections. Guitarist Steven Saunders solos slowly throughout the first section with the rest of the ensemble moving in tight waves around him. One section features some feisty tenor sax from Dunmall duetting with the drummer. The music here and throughout this disc has a joyous, uplifting vibe that feels particularly refreshing. So glad that Paul Dunmall has been working hard to bring us music that inspires us all. This is music for the heart, mind and souls of us all. – Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG NYC

Here, Dunmall has put together an octet of mostly young players who move in other contexts between more straightahead jazz and improvised music, and this mentoring of and creating opportunities for young musicians interested in free playing is now an important part of Paul’s activity. Of course, he still plays regularly in small groups with established improvisers, e.g. in the quartet with Liam Noble, John Edwards and Mark Sanders. The octet features two established improvisers in addition to Dunmall, Julie Tippetts on vocals and Martin Archer, saxophonist and label owner, then five young players four of whom are graduates of the jazz course at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, trombonist Richard Foote, guitarist Steve Saunders, bass player James Owston and drummer Jim Bashford. The fifth is trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe. It is an album full of variety and great music. It has wonderful ensemble passages featuring Paul’s compositions, some led magnificently by Julie Tippetts on wordless vocals, others purely instrumental, it has nicely interactive collective improvisation; it has individual solos over the rhythm section and a number of arrangements by Paul that seem to enter the collectively improvised passages spontaneously. Julie Tippetts is wonderful throughout leading many of the ensemble passages, and mostly performing wordlessly, but singing the words for the Golden Boat track. Dunmall is content to let the other players take a lot of the solo space, but comes in with a really strong tenor saxophone solo on the final track, he also duets with Julie on several tracks. The five young players all play really well with great individual solos from Steve Saunders, and Richard Foote, great rolling drums from Jim Bashford and rumbling bass from James Owston behind Paul Dunmall’s solo on the final track, great interaction between Charlotte Keeffe and Julie throughout. There is an added bonus from the beautifully designed CD sleeve which has four images of wood engravings created by Paul and Pete Lawrence. – Tony Dudley-Evans

Sometimes you go forward to go back and sometimes you go back to go forward. It’s A Matter of Fact has a mighty strong flavour of the great Dedication Orchestra of the mid 90’s. The Orchestra paid tribute to the massive wave of music that came out of the 60’s apartheid South Africa; in doing so it became a tidal current in its own right. The band contained a handsome mix of the UK’s finest improvisers, represented by the clever inclusion of the unique Julie Tippetts – still on great form on this new album. As well as Julie the original Orchestra had people like Kenny Wheeler, Paul Rutherford, Radu Malfatti, Evan Parker, Elton Dean plus Keith Tippett swinging the conducting role out front with bare fingers. On tenor saxophone Alan Skidmore rolled out a terrific one-man tribute to John Coltrane. Awesome. Paul Dunmall’s tenor has always had a close affinity with both these tenor maestros. On the tracks Calling The Spirits and Golden Boat he brings to the surface that same arc of grace and power. New music for a new 2023 audience. “Awesomeness” is also one of the facts about Paul’s Ensemble recording. I cited the Dedication Orchestra connection because, like that band, It’s A Matter of Fact is full of little pre-composed melodic riffs. They arise as in the manner of the Brotherhood of Breadth/Blue Note material favoured by the Orchestra. And just as then, Julie Tippetts’ voice now rides these new melodies in unison with the horn and brass lines coming off Paul Dunmall and Charlotte Keeffe’s PDE horns. It brings a cherished patina into play. As does Steven Saunders’ classy guitar and Martin Archer’s reeds, injecting a sophisticated soundprint within the tonal mix. The whole Ensemble touch spaces that hit stars with lightening. Fix the riff of the Tippetts vocals onto the touchstone of Latu/Reunion leading into the finale of Fact/Ahimsa/Dreaming Again – we’re three decades on and a new day. And to top this package off, the creative cover images of wood block engravings by Pete Lawrence & Paul Dunmall; ‘product’ with Art and Soul. – Steve Day, 2023 www.wyldepublications.com

After closing his own label in 2010 (Duns), Dunmall has only partially reduced his releases compared to the copious production of previous years. This sparkling octet rehearsal is now added to his monumental discography, certainly to be added to the list of his best things, a work animated by creative effervescence, taste for adventure, good understanding and an engaging sense of joyful participation. You notice it immediately. The song that opens the dance, Calling the Spirits, releases the same festive air and hymnodic temperament of the unforgettable Brotherhood of Breath / Blue Notes-style marches. A captivating theme played with boldness and warmth before giving way to some solos (tenor, guitar, trombone), ending up in a collective improvisation with a final reprise of the theme. A sinuous ballad, provided with lyrics and not without words as in the rest of the songs, Golden Boat sees Julie Tippetts at ease in the singer’s role as much as in the vocal improviser, as happens in the rest of the record along which the his voice accompanies the other instruments especially in duets with Dunmall, or playing in unison with the lines drawn by the brass in particular. Her voice always shines in the collective moments between scats and immediate exchanges with the rest of the octet; distinct here are echoes of his early 1970s solo albums. Admirable in the subsequent Purple Dance the rhythmic development which takes shape following an improvised meeting placed at the beginning, before giving way to the solo outing of Saunders, a guitarist capable of concreteness but also of drawing abstract canvases concluded by a festive collective finale. Atmosphere revived with greater strength in Don’t Ask Why, imbued with blues moods by weaving a very dense canvas to the realization of which brass, reeds and voice contribute in equal measure. In Latu / Reunion, we return to improvised abstractions with the voice of Julie Tippetts who draws the whole plot by conversing / debating with her partners. What fascinates is the fluidity with which everything flows and unravels until it changes in the second part into a new sort of crooked march, almost hesitant before fully breaking out. In conclusion It’s a Matter of Fact / Ahimsa / Dreaming Again, a gallop that immediately sees the effective Saunders as protagonist whose solo is underlined by the robust riffs of the horn section. Dunmall succeeds him, very intent on reminding us how much Coltrane’s lesson is still alive in him and his tenor solo vibrates and shines magnificently in dialogue with Bashford «in inte]stellar space». Owston also ends up in the spotlight, responsible for a vibrant interlude mid-song, and Keeffe on trumpet also shines. Finally, as a practice in this set, the flash starts give rise to more meditative atmospheres and vice versa, also by reiterating the dynamics. Here we arrive at a sort of progressive cleavage from which a final collective bang emerges. The icing on the cake, the beautiful woodcuts illustrating the packaging, created by Dunmall together with the artist Pete Lawrence. – Musica Jazz https://www.musicajazz.it/recensione-paul-dunmall-matter-fact/

Calling the Spirits’, für noch eine Fahrt mit dem ‘Golden Boat’, noch einen ‘Purple Dance’, ein ‘Dreaming Again’! Die Geister, die das PAUL DUNMALL ENSEMBLE bei It’s A Matter Of Fact (DISCUS 148CD) ruft, sind es nicht Keith Tippett, Centipede und Ovary Lodge? John Stevens und SME mit „Birds of a Feather“? Harry Miller? The Dedication Orchestra und der never-ending „Spirits Rejoice“-Spirit? Dunmall an Tenor- & Sopranosax, Martin Archer an Alto- & Bariton, Charlotte Keeffe (Right Here, Right Now Quartet, Hi Res Heart, Alex Ward Item 4) an Trumpet & Flügelhorn, Richard Foote an Posaune, Steven Saunders an E-Gitarre, James Owston am Kontrabass, Jim Bashford an den Drums (alle vier bereits tüchtig dunmallisiert) und über allem Julie Tippetts als zungenredendes Medium der ersten Stunde und Garant, dass sich hier Geist vom gleichen Geist einstellt. Mit Dunmall, der sich ganz der „Language of the Spirit“, Peace und Deep Joy verschrieben hat, bis hin zur idealen Gewaltlosigkeit von ‘Ahimsa’. Für die überbritisch-postkoloniale Verschmel­zung des Besten dreier Kontinente – Coltrane, Blue Notes & Brotherhood of Breath, Moksha & Mocca – in vital übersprudelnder Füllhornfreude, die aller britischen Stiffness abschwört. In aufgekratzt swingendem Überschwang, überkandidelt, insistent, prickelnd, oder auch traumselig. Das brüder-schwesterliche Pech & Schwefel-Kollektiv lässt dabei Luft für spleenige und selbstbewusste Individualität – beispielhaft Saunders’ rückwärts furzelnde Effekte bei ‘Latu’, Owstons Pizzicato-Kabinettstück mitten im letzten Part. Wobei das Holzschnitt-Artwork von Dunmall & Pete Lawrence zusätzlich der Phantasie Beine macht: Mit einer Hommage an Bird & Trane, die Vögel aus ihren Hörnen schwärmen las­sen; Ufos und Raketen über kubistischen Raumhäfen; bügeleisenköpfigen Besuchern vom anderen Stern; Schildkröten wie nicht von dieser Welt. Wen nach diesen 67 Min. nicht Luft von anderem Planeten erfrischt hat, der ist arm dran. – Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY

L’album « It’s a matter of fact » assume résolument son côté free jazz, mais avec des touches plus expérimentales et même bebop. On assiste à un déferlement de sons au fil de longues improvisations jamais ennuyeuses … qui sont en fait des compositions de Dunmall. Une preuve de plus que le nord de l’Angleterre -ici Birmingham- est pleine de musiciens audacieux et téméraires, mais surtout pleins d’inventivité et de talents. – Guy Stuckens, RADIO AIR LIBRE

One of England’s senior free-jazz saxophonists who is 70 next month and possesses a voluminous discography that stretches back to the 1980s, Paul Dunmall has always owned a freedom pass. Dunmall stands tall in an august list of pioneering elders still with us that would include fellow titans Alan Skidmore, Evan Parker, Courtney Pine, who provided his own overt take on spirituality last year, and Trevor Watts. And like Manchester’s Nat Birchall and breakout fellow Brum scene stars Shabaka Hutchings and Xhosa Cole (when Xhosa plays free) you can easily locate the Kent born Dunmall’s sound within the triumvirate of John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Albert Ayler like so many advanced spiritual players around the world enchanted by the possibilities of the sound and still nowhere near fully explored. On It’s a Matter of Fact where Dunmall in a highly arranged approach eschews the anarchy of some elements of the free sphere to place his sax in a kaleidoscopic blend with Martin Archer, Charlotte Keefe and Richard Foote in the horn section – and Julie Tippetts’ voice is the real magnetic and super-wild element weaving in and out marvellously stealing the show at every turn. The drummer here who steers the sound so well is Jim Bashford who has been tremendous in recent years with Xhosa Cole (as has bassist James Owston – the pair are on K(no)w Them, K(no)w Us). Steve Saunders’ electric guitar is less obvious in the turmoil of rhythms. It’s A Matter of Fact is best when it is at its most raucous as on the brassy push and pull of ‘Don’t Ask Why’ and next track in the lashing together of ‘Latu’ / ‘Reunion’ when Tippetts goes even more operatic than elsewhere. An extremely satisfying release on so many levels it’s one of the best UK originated albums of 2023 so far. Final word look in as you listen hard because the crisp and highly graphic cover art, so close-your-eyes woeful on many other clangers in the idiom in existence out there, is also ace. – https://www.marlbank.net/posts/paul-dunmall-ensemble-it-s-a-matter-of-fact-discus

Discus head Martin Archer‘s idea to add Julie Tippetts and Charlotte Keeffe to the line-up that recorded last year’s Yes Tomorrow was an inspired one, allowing the octet to straddle the borders of swinging, classic jazz with a freer, more progressive approach, shading in the areas between and generally having a fine old time if the smiles on the album photograph are anything to go by. At times, in sprawling opener “Calling The Spirits” it feels as though we are spinning the dial on an old radio, settling on something for a few minutes before bounding onto pastures new. Julie’s voice is as warm and free as you could possibly want, an unfettered delight, stepping around the sax, drawing the players back to the opening motif, after off-piste thrills and romantic introspection flash by. There are nods to the past with the feelgood swingin’ groove that would be perfect in some basement supper club, punters dancing around the tables in thrall to Julie’s scatting as it hits the sweet spot that links jazz, folk and classical, ever shadowed by Charlotte’s horn. The willingness to mix things up all the way through the album means that the longform pieces sit neatly with more standard song-based tracks; “Golden Boat” with its guitar and drum propelled jazz-rock feel contains Julie’s evocative words. There is a subtle insistence, the drums a dreamy, drifting force that couldn’t be more different to the following “Purple Dance”, all rudderless freedom and spectral vocals. It is lent a spasmodic drama with a constant movement of tone and something for the other players to match. When the horns all blow together, it fills a sound spectrum and gives a framework to the delightful guitar on “Don’t Ask Why”. The bassline is shooting away with the track and it feels as though the group’s interaction becomes more natural as time goes on, although Julie’s presence adding extra magic perhaps heightens their efforts, enhancing every note. The jumps between structure and freedom lend a sense of journey to the album and Julie’s woodland calls and ululations on “Latu / Reunion” lend a wildness that infuses the others, notes scattered across the leaf litter, scorched streaks seen through the canopy, rhythmic awkwardness like knotted roots tripping the unwary. Martin finally leads the way out, his horn blasts clearing the way. Another longform piece closes the album, a spatial guitar and drum excursion that draws horns in, leading to very different phases with a sense of jubilation as the sax burns brightly then flames out, exhausted waiting for back-up. Julie’s presence is magnetic; it feels as though the group wants to be a part of what she is doing and moves in a trajectory around her, until James Owston‘s mellow bass solo cleanses the palate, a study in dexterity that warms the heart. Nobody hogs the limelight here, and through the nineteen minutes of “It’s A Matter Of Fact / Ahimsa / Dreaming Again”, the generosity of spirit is really shown by the textural support given to the soloists, even Steve Saunders‘s awkward guitar shapes and Charlotte’s wayward runs. Their willingness to circle back and refresh the listener’s memory with how things started is just the icing on a diverting and really satisfying cake and this album is further proof that Paul Dunmall is a name to trust. – Mr Olivetti, FREQ https://freq.org.uk/reviews/paul-dunmall-ensemble-its-a-matter-of-fact/

This is an album by the octet led by British Jazz saxophonist / composer / bandleader Paul Dunmall, which also includes vocalist Julie Tippetts, saxophonist Martin Archer, trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe, trombonist Richard Foote, guitarist Steven Saunders, bassist James Owston and drummer Jim Bashford. The album presents six original compositions, all by the leader. The music, although obviously very spontaneous and Free Jazz oriented, is based on solid compositions, which even swing happily, when given a chance. The tracks are pretty long, which means there is plenty of opportunity for spirited improvising by the ensemble members, who play in solo, duo trio and every other imaginable configuration, in addition to their performances as the octet. These are some of the finest British Free Jazz improvisers, which means that there is not a dull moment herein. Of course, the fact that Julie Tippetts is part of the lineup constitutes the proverbial cherry on top. It’s great to hear her incredible vocal pyrotechnics as part of a large ensemble, a superb reminiscence of her work in such circumstances with Keith Tippett’s large / gigantic ensembles in the past. Although she sings mostly vocalese and improvised voice parts, there are occasional lyrics, which I assume she was the author of, although noting is mentioned about it on the album’s artwork, which BTW features some beautiful wood engravings by Dunmall and Pete Lawrence. Overall, this is a wonderful, highly spirited and superbly played / improvised album by this first class team, which is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish. It is also a proof that Free Jazz can be elegant / environment friendly and listenable by a much wider audience than usually assumed. Dunmall keeps the torch burning and Julie Tippetts lost nothing of her charm over time, which is heartwarming, since ay our age the time passing by can be merciless with friends disappearing on a daily basis. Thanks to Martin Archer, the spiritus movens of the Discus label, which ceaselessly releases non-trivial music, against all odds, for which we are eternally grateful. – Adam Baruch, THE SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE http://www.adambaruch.com/reviews

Paul Dunmall has long been a Coltrane disciple. He visited the US and rehearsed with Alice. As he explained in a feature in The Wire 471, he toured with Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson in the 1970s, who asked him to “cool” his free jazz warm-up routine a little. Inspired by John’s late recordings, he was a founding member of Spirit Level, and played in Keith Tippett’s improv quartet Mujician. That affiliation is apparent in his latest release, a follow-up to Yes Tomorrow by his Birmingham quintet, released on Discus last year. The new album features a suite for expanded group that mixes tight compositions and openended improvisation. Dunmall is on tenor and soprano saxophones, with Julie Tippetts (voice), Martin Archer (alto and baritone saxophones), Charlotte Keeffe (trumpet), Richard Foote (trombone), Steven Saunders (guitar), James Owston (bass) and Jim Bashford (drums). The eventful and episodic “Calling The Spirits” has a strong ecstatic vibe, and features the free improv vocalising for which Tippetts is best known. That vocalising also appears on the opening minutes of “Purple Dance” – which then develops a groove that includes a powerful solo by Steven Saunders on electric guitar. But there’s memorable song material too, including the dreamy, languorous “Golden Boat” with Tippetts scatting and the catchy “Don’t Ask Why”. “Latu/Reunion” is squally free jazz with prominent vocalising, that – characteristically for this album – develops an infectious groove. “It’s A Matter Of Fact/Ahimsa/Dreaming Again” is the longest track at 19 minutes. It opens with a gamelan sounding theme, and includes a John Coltrane style tenor sax plus drums duet and solo guitar. The track is a fitting conclusion to a joyous, uplifting release by one of the most passionate and committed jazz improvisors. – Andy Hamilton, THE WIRE

The lines curve, fragment and reform, incorporating vast harmonic and historical tracts in a seemingly parenthetical phrase. Fairly brief by the standards of saxophonist Paul Dunmall (who turned 70 last month), “Every Soul”, Yes Tomorrow’s closer, brings his inclusive and unpredictable approach into focus. In another way, that alto solo is an outlier. The pieces on these two albums are ensemble compositions, brimming with the invention, discovery and musical dynamism typical of every Dunmall project, composed or otherwise. Last year’s Yes Tomorrow release is a revelation in that the quintet plays Dunmall’s compositions, a relatively rare occurrence and always a treat. Steven Saunders (guitar), James Owston (bass) and Jim Bashford (drums) rock the opening salvos of “Micromys Minutus”, but soon slide into one of those wonderfully nebulous areas Davey Graham and company occupied in the late ’60s. They elongate the groove as Dunmall’s slithery melody obscures the pulse, so that by Saunders’ solo, genre has been irradicated. It isn’t even really a solo, as in late Coltrane fashion, everyone is improvising contrapuntally as meter dissolves, until the infectious groove returns at the end. The compositions explore particular areas: they can be alternately meditative and swinging, as in “Medgar Evers”, or they can blaze with the high energy of the title track, on which trombonist Richard Foote punches, growls and slides his way to the foreground. On It’s a Matter of Fact the genre-busting quintet is expanded to include Martin Archer (alto and baritone saxophones), Charlotte Keeffe (trumpet)and long-time Dunmall collaborator, vocalist Julie Tippetts (who turns 76 this month). Her strong, earthy voice propels “Calling the Spirits” into the stratosphere, paving the way for a subsequent collective improvision that blasts notions of time and space into irrelevance. The 18-minute piece grooves while conjuring Dunmall’s I Wish You Peace in distillation, just as “Latu Reunion” builds on its foundational freedoms, with Saunders’ electronic timbres an integral component. Dunmall guides the melody to the surface at 5:47, and his unisons with Tippetts are breathtaking as another vamp ensues. As with his compositions, Dunmall’s playing morphs continuously even as its roots remain firmly planted. Scales and blues licks coalesce with stunning precision, traversing tonalities with the speed and assurance of complete assimilation. The band aesthetic inhabits similar spaces. Listen at 17:30, as Dunmall lays down a pentatonic phrase and Saunders echoes the final pitch at a moment’s notice. Keeffe imbues the bluesy “Don’t Ask Why” with similarly rapid-fire flights of interregistral fancy, each gesture a kaleidoscope of dynamic contrast as the others murmur agreement. These are ensembles in which listening and playing generate symbiotic propulsion, just as tonal centers slide in and out of focus. The two albums are sides of the same coin and represent high points in a nearly half-century career. – Marc Medwin, NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD

Some albums really need their own post, and Paul Dunmall’s recent release on Discus Music is the latest deserving recipient. Quite frankly, it’s blown me away. I’m used to a kind of gruff thud and bluster from Dunmall, which I love, but It’s A Matter Of Fact finds him occupying very different territory to that. First track Calling The Spirits has already covered so much territory it’s almost intimidating. Julie Tippetts sounds like Brigitte Fontaine with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, there’s a Coltraneish interlude in the middle and a Zila township chug there too. This is wildly inventive music made by an octet with an expansive big band sound. This begins a journey across tuneful and deeply soulful compositions that are so luscious it feels like eating a ridiculously satisfying cake that you just know is going to overload the senses. Big shout out to Charlotte Keeffe for some fine solos, Tippetts’ wonderful scatting, that township vibe that keeps rising between satisfying explorations of the ineffable other and, well, Dunmall for pulling something so immersive and entertaining out of the bag. It’s exciting to hear an album so surprising and fresh, I really hope this bunch gets out on the road because a live performance is going to be something very special indeed. – blog post on FB “best album yesterday” by Graeme Murrell 

Dunmall and the wood engraver Pete Lawrence had been discussing their love of free jazz when Dunmall surprised Lawrence by revealing that his (Dunmall’s) engravings were completely improvised. Lawrence had been used to planning and designing his engravings, but suggested that the two of them worked improvisationally on the same blocks, turn and turn about, a process which produced 20 “duets”. These, in their turn, inspired this album. There’s nothing wooden (sorry!) about these performances, nor would you expect there to be, given the distinguished line-up. The long opening track starts with a menacing, loping ensemble before the rhythm begins to break up and the ensemble lines separate into more free individual parts. This pretty much sets the agenda for the rest of the session, with apparently tightly arranged ensemble passages mixing with improvised contributions from individual players or groupings, such as an exciting headlong tenor solo by Dunmall on Reunion and the pleasing solos by Saunders on the title sequence and Purple Dance, backed by just Owston and Bashford until the piece becomes more abstract as other performers begin to sidle in, first providing a strong riff which alternately fragments and re-forms. And so it goes, reflecting that original inspiration. – Barry Witherden, JAZZ JOURNAL https://jazzjournal.co.uk/2023/07/04/paul-dunmall-ensemble-its-a-matter-of-fact/

Vocalist Julie Tippetts is a dominant part of It’s A Matter of Fact. With the septet filled out by trumpeter/flugelhornist Charlotte Keeffe, trombonist Richard Foote, guitarist Steven Saunders, bassist James Owston, drummer Jim Bashford and Dunmall and Martin Archer playing a couple of saxophonists each, some of the riffing arrangements suggest Tippetts 1960s’ fame as Julie Driscoll, rock/blues vocalist with Brian Augur’s groups. A lot has obviously changed during the more than half century, and Tippets, who burnished her free music credential with the SME and collaborations with Archer, rarely expresses lyrics, but instead scat sings, yodels, gurgles and burbles with a tessitura midway between bel canto and big beat. Meanwhile tutti passages featuring trombone blats, trumpet bugling and reed vamps could come from a horn-rock band of that era. In fact, Saunders’ upfront string clenching stops, ringing chords and biting strokes could have guaranteed him a gig during the Blues Revival. Crucially though the creative music expressed on the six tracks never descends to Pop-Rock or even Pop-Jazz. Owston, outputs a steady pulse with cymbal claps and kettle-drum-like bumps that’s potent without being all-powerful; and Pacing from Bashford is anything but Rock monotonous. Altissimo squeaks and scooping honks arise from the saxophonists, but usually in context and never at the expense of horizontal evolution. Plunger tones from trombonist Foote, who like the others and Saunders works in Dunmall’s bands, and triplet bites or muted obbligatos from Keefee, part of many other groups, add torque and textures to the tracks while confirming the players’ exploratory backgrounds. Horn heavy section work with honks and swoops may animate most tunes, but the introductory “Calling The Spirits” and the final triptych “It’s A Matter Of Fact/Ahimsa/Dreaming Again” provide scope for extended improvisations. Each player cycles through intense and informal passages, with simple duets between trombone and guitar or voice and trumpet on the first spelling whole group motifs which roar with Mingusian power. On the final track, guitar twangs and reed projections ground the first sequence along with speared trumpet bites; the mid-section slows down for a formalist bass solo and curlicue saxophone tones; while the concluding minutes are given over to full ensemble rhythmic shouts and a saxophone joust that smears and scoops simultaneously. – Ken Waxman, JAZZ WORD https://www.jazzword.com/reviews/paul-dunmall-ensemble/

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