Paul Dunmall
Bright Light A Joyous Celebration
Discus 162CD
Available formats: CD/DL


“When something’s right, it’s right.” (Editor’s  Choice, four stars) – Daniel Spicer, JAZZWISE

“The title track, whooping with the clamour of 60s South African townships, is the highlight of an exultantly conversational set inscribed with a multitude of post-Coltrane jazz stories.” – John Fordham, GUARDIAN

“There is endless jubilation and good vibes going on here that make me and hopefully you smile when we listen to this treasure once and for all time.” – Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG NYC


For his third Discus Music, Dunmall has brought together an absolutely incredible group of musicians. Four punchy compositions and one group improvisation allow everyone maximum space for expression and exciting interaction.

Recording session sponsor Tony Dudley-Evans writes: “The music was magnificent, full of energy and the name of the session, Bright Light A Joyous Celebration, captures the atmosphere of the occasion, Each track was recorded in one take. Each saxophonist contributed amazing solos, but this was essentially an interactive group performance driven by Hamid’s drums, Dave’s bass and Corey’s brilliantly judged contributions on the vibes.”

The fact that Dunmall is able to bring such a group together for a session like this, where every musician is a bandleader / significant figure in their own right, is a perfect demonstration of the regard in which he is held.

Paul Dunmall – tenor and c soprano saxophones
Soweto Kinch – alto and tenor saxophones
Xhosa Cole – tenor saxophone
Corey Mwamba – vibraphone
Dave Kane – double bass
Hamid Drake – drums

Produced by Martin Archer & Corey Mwamba

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Paul Dunmall is a tough musician to keep up with. Since 2010, he has released 86 albums (according to, and I am certain that leaves out a good number of live digital-only releases. What keeps him interesting is not just his raw creativity and talent but his relentless stream of collaborations, especially within the British scene. Many of these are with the usual luminaries: John Edwards, Marc Sanders, Phillp Gibbs, Paul Rogers. He also, however, has a penchant for sharing the stage with musicians from later generations. That brings us to Bright Light A Joyous Celebration, on which Dunmall is joined not only by the venerable Hamid Drake, but also younger musicians such as vibist Corey Mwamba (who admittedly is already a household name for many), reedsmen Soweto Kinch and Xhosa Cole and bassist Dave Kane. Enough virtual ink has been spilled regarding Dunmall’s playing over the years. He has impeccable tone. He is a figurehead for an important stream that developed out of early energy music. He writes incredibly catchy melodies. (Four out of five tracks on Bright Light A Joyous Celebration are penned by the man, himself.) He plays with, rather than in front of, his collaborators, helping to elevate them while they keep him on his toes. Together, they keep the music fresh and moving. As much as any other project of Dunmall, this is one captures a unit rather than a leader and his band. Mwamba shines, especially on the introductory track, You Look Away, about 8 minutes into which he engages in an impressive jangly run, buoyed by Kane’s teetering strut. It can often be a challenge to disaggregate which tenor is playing when, but, because of that, I can say with confidence that Kinch and Cole have chops. They can toe up to Dunmall, dance around his snake-charmer soprano, hold their own court sessions, and harness that early free jazz spirit that imbues this music, no matter how contemporary it is. Kane and Drake, the latter not only one of the most precise drummers around but also one of the rhythmic, form an airtight rhythm section, especially when Mwamba adds his intermittent intercessions. That pulsing drive results various extended periods of riveting grooves, especially in the sole collective composition I’ve Had A Lot. By the time one gets through the end of the final and titular track, Bright Light A Joyous Celebration, another free bop beast, however, the listener might justifiably question why the celebration had to come to an end. Certainly, they have heard a lot by this point. Whether a lot is enough, however, is another question altogether. – Nick Ostrum, FREE JAZZ BLOG

Here’s a line-up to get excited about – and one which probably only Paul Dunmall could succeed in pulling together. One of the few UK horn players with a transatlantic reputation, he’s previously worked with master American drummer Hamid Drake, while, increasingly, acting as a lightning rod for younger UK players. Here, he calls on the talents of two of the hottest saxophonists to emerge on these shores in recent times, Soweto Kinch and Xhosa Cole, plus mercurial vibes player Corey Mwamba and long time collaborator, the excellent Dave Kane on bass. The session is aptly named. Four of the five tracks are based on minimal heads by Dunmall – ranging from a multi-horned exultation to a cheeky R&B groove – which provide the context for gloriously unfettered blowing from the three saxes punctuated by some deliciously salty vibraphone interjections. Drake is a powerhouse throughout, driving the performances with muscular verve and a deep sense of swing. The longest piece is a spontaneous group improvisation, which finds its way into a loping, reggae-ish vamp, with Kane eagerly and adroitly jumping on Drake’s deep groove. It comes as little surprise to discover that all tracks are first takes. When something’s right, it’s right. – Daniel Spicer, JAZZWISE

Paul Dunmall has recorded prolifically throughout his musical life, yet has often remained modestly in the shadows of more famous contemporaries, despite his undoubted mastery. All of which makes this new album, recorded as he approached his 70th birthday, a wondrous event. Extending the long musical friendship he has enjoyed with master drummer Hamid Drake and joined by a younger generation of musicians, he has created a wonderful album, full of energy and commitment. Four of the five tracks are based on simple heads by Paul, the fifth, I’ve Had A Lot, freely improvised; all were recorded in one take. Individually, each of the three saxophonists contributes fine solos. Dunmall is both abstract and songlike in his lines, matched by Soweto Kinch’s likewise abstract approach on alto and Xhosa Cole’s gruff tenor, but this is essentially an interactive group performance driven by Hamid Drake’s drums alongside Dave Kane’s strong bass lines and Corey Mwamba’s well-judged contributions on vibes. Corey Mwamba is consistently passionate and exciting, notably on the often cacophonous Many Sparrows, while Hamid Drake is the proverbial powerhouse, providing both rhythm and colour. Two standout tracks are the initially pensive and then dance-like shuffle of I’ve Had A Lot and the glorious township jazz of the title track, but in truth all are their own highlights. The vibrant cover, featuring paintings by Dunmall, is indicative of the affirmative music within: indeed, this is a truly joyous celebration. – Simon Adams, JAZZ JOURNAL

Plenty of saxophonists learning the game in the 1950s made John Coltrane their lodestar for his famous ferment of spiritual gravitas and storming improv intensity – but his best disciples took that sound as a call to freedom, not idolatry. The modestly masterful Kent-born saxophonist Paul Dunmall reveres Coltrane’s emotional eloquence to this day, but has also been profoundly affected by the very different, ’trane-influenced digressions of his UK sax contemporaries John Surman and Evan Parker: Surman’s lyrical affection for global folk musics, Parker’s contrasting drive toward a powerful jazz language independent of conventional tonality and form. The open imagination of UK improv-piano genius Keith Tippett, a longtime playing partner, has also been a gamechanger. From those sources and many more, Dunmall has cultivated a gift for juggling abstraction and songlike shapes, punchily boppish tunes and free-collective maelstroms – stories that are sketched all over Bright Light a Joyous Celebration, made in his 70th birthday year. He’s joined here by saxophonist Xhosa Cole (the 2018 BBC young jazz musician of the year), freebopper, rapper, poet and MC Soweto Kinch, subtly harmonious vibes-player Corey Mwamba, Midlands bassist Dave Kane and former Don Cherry African-American drums maestro Hamid Drake. The grittily repeating hook of You Look Away finds Dunmall in early-Coltrane hard bop mode, but jazz’s old and new stories enthrallingly flank him in Kinch’s off-the-register alto wails and the gruff warmth and directness of Cole’s engagingly old-school tenor sound. I’ve Had a Lot diverts quiet vibes musings into a skipping, sax-riffing folk-dance that launches Dunmall’s airborne soprano, before wailing Cole and Kinch choruses precede Drake’s closing drums tumult. The title track, whooping with the clamour of 60s South African townships, is the highlight of an exultantly conversational set inscribed with a multitude of post-Coltrane jazz stories. – John Fordham, GUARDIAN

Brings together incredible musicians to bring you fine improvised and composed jazz. Recommended! – Jack Sinimin Porcello, WAYO 104.3FM

Revered Free/Spiritual Music elders UK’s Paul Dunmall and Chicago’s Hamid Drake have worked together on five discs previously. When Hamid visitied the UK in November of 2022, Dunmall organized this sextet session. Although I hadn’t heard of either guest saxist here, I do recognize the names of vibist Corey Mwamba from previous sessions from Dunmall and Martin Archer plus bassist Dave Kane has also worked with Dunmall on several previous discs as well as being in a fine trio with Matthew Bourne & Steve Davis. It turns out that I had heard Soweto Kinch at least once on a CD I found where he works with Shabaka Hutchings. Over the past few years, Paul Dunmall, who used to do exclusively improvised dates, has been composing for several of his own bands. This holds true for this date as well. “You Look Away” has an infectious repeating line right from the start with Mr. Mwamba inserting his own lines in & around the bass and drums. He takes a modest, yet thoughtful vibes solo later in the same song which I really like. As each of the three saxists solo separately, they all bring a different sound to the ensemble. Mr. Dunmall does not play his soprano sax often on recordings so it is a treat to hear him here, taking several inspired solos. Bassist Dave Kane takes an extraordinary solo here as well, speeding up and slowing down before getting back to that cool walking bass groove. All three saxists kick off “Many Sparrows” tightly together before the rhythm team joins them and Mwamba takes another feisty vibes solo. The sextet soon launches into hyperdrive as the tempo speeds up and the energy increases. “Disbelief” slows things down so that each saxist can take a slower, more modest solo. Mr. Kinch takes an extraordinary solo on this piece in which Mwamba’s vibes tangle with Mr. Kinch, the two pushing each other higher throughout the piece. By track 4, “I’ve Had a Lot”, the three saxes start off together quietly with the vibes simmering underneath. As the rhythm team kicks in, the three saxes all solo together, weaving a fine web but stepping on each other’s toes. The ever-great Hamid Drake takes a wonderful solo here with vibist Mwamba adding some nice rhythmic spice. The piece ends with a fine three-part sax conclusion warmly arranged by Mr. Dunmall. The title track, “Bright Light, A Joyous Celebration”, has a righteous theme that will stay with you long after the disc ends. The sextet is tight and swings hard with an inspired vibes solo first, each saxist takes a fine solo here, showing off their own unique sound. The theme here has that South African soulful groove that many of us hold so dear. There is endless jubilation and good vibes going on here that make me and hopefully you smile when we listen to this treasure once and for all time. – Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG NYC

PAUL DUNMALL and Hamid Drake are familiar with each other through “Love, Warmth and Compassion”, “Peace and Joy” or “Soultime”. The latter already features Dave Kane on bass, who has just as close ties to Dunmall as he does to Corey Mwamba, the (s)kin-deep vibraphonist rooted in Derby. On Bright Light A Joyous Celebration (DISCUS 162CD) this rhythm section is interlocked with Dunmall’s soprano & tenor, to his left the young Xhosa Cole from Birmingham on tenor sax, to the right Alto & tenor Soweto Kinch with his Black Peril aura. For a brass festival, as colorful as Dunmall’s painting, so groovy that all the sparrows swarm out of the bushes and spread themselves like birds of paradise. Mwamba jingles King Solomon’s diamonds, a “Spirits Rejoice” and Joy Unlimited spirit, as it was once alive on Ogun, turns everything around into a swinging carnival, whether the hardliners of exclusive Britishness like it or not. I don’t think life is just a walk in the park for a few asses. In any case, these six share their surplus of joy with everyone. – Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY

Most Exposé readers will know British saxophonist Paul Dunmall from his tenure with the jazz quartet Mujician, along with bassist Paul Rogers, pianist Keith Tippett, and drummer Tony Levin, a collaboration that yielded eight excellent albums between 1992 and Tippett’s passing in 2020. But Dunmall’s activities all throughout that period and well before include recordings with his various namesake groups (duos, trios, various quartets, quintets, octets, collaborations with each of the Mujician members, with Elton Dean, Phillip Gibbs, and countless others going all the way back to the mid-70s), plus hundreds of credits throughout the years. The album at hand, Bright Lights A Joyous Celebration, contains sessions from November 2022, featuring five extended jazz compositions by Dunmall, with drummer Hamid Drake, double bassist Dave Kane, vibraphonist Corey Mwamba, Soweto Kinch (alto and tenor sax), and Xhosa Cole on tenor sax, with Dunmall covering tenor and C soprano saxes. These players are no strangers to one another, having collaborated many times previously. To help the listener sort things out with the headphones, each of the sax players is in their own space: Dunmall is center, Soweto Kinch is on the right side, and Xhosa Cole is on the left channel, and of course these guys aren’t blowing all the time, often instead taking their turns. Though there is never a dull moment, with Kane and Drake holding down a groove or taking solos, and Mwamba splashing brilliant colors at every turn, the saxes are are the raison d’être. While these pieces are composed, each player gets plenty of room to express themselves, sometime in wild and free improvs, other times in tasty disciplined soloing, but it’s always in the spirit of the title — joyous and truly celebratory. – Peter Thelen, EXPOSE

Starting from the first simple, effective and incisive theme of You look away (the first track, like the others, a composition by the leader, the excellent saxophonist Paul Dunmall (tenor and soprano), one senses that one will listen to a good album. And the omen is true. Supported by the excellent drums of Hamid Drake ( Dunmall ‘s great friend and musical partner – but supported is little, because Drake does not limit himself to supporting or pushing, but produces quality music, interacting with class with the other musicians – the The band’s sound has a vibrant groove, both in the more rhythmic moments and in the more airy, open, abstract ones. In addition to the musicians mentioned, a special mention certainly goes to Corey Mwamba’s vibraphone , which embroiders warm colours “to keep at bay” (in a certain sense) the harshness – wise and elegantly articulated – of the saxes (not only those of the leader, but also those of Xhosa Cole , tenor, and Soweto Kinch , contralto and tenor. Even Dave Kane’s double bass , however, cannot be overlooked, because its rhythmic sound builds excellent interplay with both rhythm and melodic instruments. When these play together, as in the incipit of Many Sparrows (precisely to give voice to the many sparrows), the sonic impact is certainly very impressive; but even the less sustained moments exhibit excellent sound qualities, also thanks to Drake ‘s turbulent, but as I was saying, rare aesthetic quality work. In this sense, the subdued but dancing and, then lyrical, beginning of Disbelief. In short, this album, which takes us into the realm of avant-garde jazz and open, yet elegantly robust improvisation, is all about listening. Even when – which can sometimes get boring elsewhere – the intensity leads to the repetition of short, and rhythmically full, melodic modules. Indeed, it is indeed a joyful and bright celebration. 9/10 – Alessanndro Bertinetto, KATHODIK,

Un son ample, fait du vrombissement d’une section de saxophones dont les ténors se taillent la part du lion, ce sextet prend des allures de mini big band. La capacité de Paul Dunmall à se frayer des chemins entre une esthétique post-free et des couleurs africaines rend l’écoute de Bright Light A Joyous Celebration passionnante. Le jazz britannique a donné naissance à bon nombre de saxophonistes ténor : Tubby Hayes, Alan Wakeman, Evan Parker, Alan Skidmore, Tony Coe ont développé des styles identifiables, à l’instar de Paul Dunmall qui, lui, s’insère facilement dans des formations diverses. Sa pratique instrumentale s’est étoffée au fil de rencontres importantes : Alice Coltrane et Johnny « Guitar » Watson durant son séjour aux États-Unis, ainsi que d’expériences avant-gardistes en Angleterre, du London Jazz Composer’s Orchestra de Barry Guy au groupe Tapestry de Keith Tippett. Bien entouré par les saxophonistes Soweto Kinch et Xhosa Cole qui façonnent l’agrégat sonore en y installant des rythmes circulaires comme dans « Disbelief », Paul Dunmall s’exprime par ses solos entraînants. Il fait preuve d’imagination au c-soprano, cet instrument situé entre le soprano et le sopranino, difficile à jouer du fait d’une justesse approximative. Le leader le réhabilite et en tire un son chaleureux non loin du hautbois. Le pouvoir mélodique est accentué par Corey Mwamba au vibraphone : très habile dans ses ponctuations riches harmoniquement, il produit de longues notes et son intervention dans « Many Sparrows » est imposante. La participation de Hamid Drake, dont le jeu coloré se situe par moments dans la lignée d’Ed Blackwell, ennoblit le sextet. Il faut souligner la pulsation efficace et constante du contrebassiste Dave Kane qui donne du corps aux compositions, en particulier dans les balancements rythmiques. L’harmonie est à l’honneur dans Bright Light A Joyous Celebration ; la modernité y côtoie une authentique générosité. Par sa maturité, Paul Dunmall a une fois de plus célébré une musique métissée en lui insufflant une partition fastueuse. – Mario Borroni, CITIZEN JAZZ

Bright Light A Joyous Celebration’s five tracks can be characterized a radiant FreeBop. Here the players detour into kwela, groove and straight-ahead currents. From “You Look Away”, whose linear motion has elements of “Take the A Train”, Kane’s coordinated bass pulse and Drake’s in the pocket drumming plus ingenious coloration from vibe sustain and reverberation provide the infrastructure needed for the saxes to express their architectural designs. Although tenor saxophone timbre advanced by all three reed players can be similar, Dunmall’s soprano sax outlines triple-tongued flutters, while power squalls and speedy theme splays from all or each of the reedists cement linear progression. Meanwhile, varied tempos, strains and pitches are explored through multiphonics and shimmies, other tunes. This most notable on “I’ve Had A Lot”, where layered saxophone riffs are used to harmonize back to straight-ahead a narrative that was splintered with harsh reed honks, stutters and smears. Aluminum bar chiming and drum thumps here and elsewhere demonstrate that the six players can improvise without letdown at lento, as well as andante and presto tempos. While other motifs ranging from stinging reed bites from alto saxophonist Kinch; multi-dimensional sheets of sounds from tenor saxophonists; harsh drum ruffs and solid driven reverberations from the vibist are heard, unforced swing and horizontal motion predominate. In fact, the overall moods expressed are not surprisingly, bright and joyous. – Ken Waxman, JAZZ WORD

While the opener suggests a blowing session from veteran British saxophonist Paul Dunmall, as good as that promises to be, the reality is better still. Joining him is a starry cast drawn from succeeding generations, with the addition of American drummer Hamid Drake. With the drummer touring in the UK. Dunmall took the opportunity to renew a friendship that stretches back almost two decades, one first heard on the fiery Peace And Joy (Slam, 2006). Alongside them in the studio are the saxophones of Soweto Kinch and Xhosa Cole, Corey Mwamba’s vibraphone and Dave Kane occupying the bass chair. For the date Dunmall supplied four charts, with the program completed by one cooperative endeavor. That first cut, “You Look Away,” serves as an introduction to the band, as a punchy head inaugurates an agreeable bounce and an ensuing series of solos. Helpfully the three reedmen, who all play tenor at some point, are ranged across the stereo picture and their positions identified on the sleeve. Although Dunmall might be the most storied, Kinch’s insistent cries and bluesy tinges and Cole’s angular yelps and timbral adventures ensure a satisfying depth to both the features and collective voicings. Thereafter the horns unwind, attractively interweaving like the titular garrulous songsters on “Many Sparrows,” where the written material overlaps and is passed from one to another in a communal swirl without explicit spots for any one player. Drake begins “Disbelief” alone, before the reeds loosely articulate the theme. Among the subsequent delights is a duet between Kinch and Cole, with the pair entwining around one another, before stretching out individually. This is also a great place to appreciate Mwamba’s idiosyncratic interaction with the front line; much more than comping, he clanks, accentuates and echoes particular turns of phrase, in a way which amplifies rather than encroaches. Though Drake does not impose himself on proceedings, he lends the set an inevitable surge of ticking grooves and spicy fills, buoying up everyone around him. He comes nearest to stepping out on “I’ve Had A Lot,” where his punctuations of a Kane pizzicato excursion gradually bloom in polyrhythmic splendor. Although it is the one piece without a script, it does not sound dissimilar to the rest, especially after the drummer’s patter gives the percolating horns some direction and Dunmall, flanked by impromptu riffing, extemporizes a piping folky air on soprano. The title track rounds of the album in style, doing what it says on the tin, illuminated by eddying and glinting vibes and soaring tenor from the leader. The track concludes what one might call a terrific straight-ahead free jazz outing, if that is not a contradiction in terms, by a likely unrepeatable top notch grouping. – John Sharpe, ALL ABOUT JAZZ

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