Paul Dunmall / Paul Dunmall Octet

Bridging the Great Divide Live

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The focus of this album is the long opening track, a follow-up of sorts to the same piece performed a couple of years earlier by a similar octet led by Paul Dunmall and recorded for Cuneiform Records. As with the predecessor, Dunmall gives plenty of breathing space to others in his all-star group, but also takes the lead with consistently compelling improvisations. Dunmall negotiates tenor saxophone and bagpipes (separately, of course), the latter on which he opens the piece with an incredible display of technical skill. The band includes some of the finest musicians from England's flourishing free improvisation scene, including the impressive Paul Rutherford on trombone, a consistently engaging Keith Tippett on piano, and the dexterous Paul Rogers on bass. Much of the title piece consists of long improvisations in the murky twilight where free jazz meets hard bop. While the level of improvisation is consistently high from everyone in the group, the standout (other than Dunmall, who is expectedly superb) might be trumpeter Gethin Liddington, whose somewhat awkward, non-swinging, slightly rough-hewn style favorably reminds the listener of Olu Dara's classic work with Henry Threadgill. While there are several beautiful written passages by Dunmall, for the most part this is a blowing session, with plenty of solo space, much by the hard-hitting Dunmall. Some might find the length of the track imposing (it is almost an hour), but there is no questioning the quality of the results. The tag piece, "Wind," finds Dunmall on tenor sax leading his longstanding quartet, and he burns (perhaps "flies" is more appropriate) with breathless abandon.