Commissioned by the BBC Radio 3 program Jazz on 3 for Paul Dunmall's 50th birthday, I Wish You Peace is a big-band extravaganza that showcases the sax player's chops as an improviser and composer, but mostly his taste for large-group gestures and larger-than-life music. Since this was going to be a celebration, Dunmall invited a lot of friends, representing most of his recent musical endeavors: the complete lineup of his Octet, the members of Mujician (Keith Tippett, Paul Rogers, and Tony Levin), John Adams and Mark Sanders (with whom he plays in trio), Philip Gibbs (with whom he has a duo, among other things), etc. There were 15 musicians in all, including Brian Irvine, selected to conduct this monstrous band. The only friend missing here is Dunmall's trusty bagpipes (which would have been nice to hear in one of the quieter passages). Titled as a protest to the United States' war on Iraq (and to England's complacency, no doubt), "I Wish You Peace" is a 50-minute work in three movements. The music combines heavy-swinging American free jazz, European free improv, that special kind of avant-garde jazz Chris McGregor developed in England back in the '60s and '70s, and (judging from Simon Picard's tenor sax solo in the third part) a touch of gospel! Dunmall's group music (as the two Paul Dunmall Octet CDs on Cuneiform testify) is fueled by volume: quiet passages are slow, delicate, and highlight Tippett's inside-piano, Gibbs' prepared guitar, and Rogers' gorgeous custom bass, among others. As each movement progresses, the horns pile up; the two drummers get excited; the decibels rise; the playing becomes tense, frantic, urgent; and all of a sudden (even though the listener was acutely aware that something big was preparing to happen) the ensemble literally explodes in a blazing fire of sound. Some will prefer these high-energy moments; others will prefer to focus on Gethin Liddington's incredibly strange (and inspired!) one-way call-and-response game in "Pt. 2" or Rogers' solo at the beginning of "Pt. 3." And a few will simply be thankful that Dunmall, who is such a constantly riveting performer, was given a chance to put together a project of this magnitude.
AllMusic Review by François Couture