Thursday, June 20, 2019

Paul Dunmall Sun Ship Quartet - John Coltrane 50th Memorial Concert At Cafe Oto (Confront, 2019)

Over the past several years British saxophonist Paul Dunmall has taken a deep dive into the music of John Coltrane, particularly the freer or more avant garde music that he recorded toward the end of his life. For this album he formed a group to interpret the music of the Coltrane album Sun Ship, which was recorded in 1965, but released posthumously in 1971. The music was recorded live at Cafe OTO in London on July 17, 2017, the fiftieth anniversary of Coltrane’s passing. Opening the album is the trio of Danish flutist Julie Kjær with two drummers, Mark Wastell and Ståle Liavik Solberg, taking inspiration from the from the 1967 Coltrane album Expression on "May There Be Peace and Love" beginning with a mantra of Coltrane's own recorded voice, leading into the trio who builds a beautifully imaginative lengthy improvisation. The concert may be dedicated to Coltrane, but it is the spirit of his confederate and dear friend Eric Dolphy who receives equal homage in this performance. After a much deserved round of applause, the opening group takes a bow and the core Sun Ship Quartet is introduced, containing Paul Dunmall and Howard Cottle on tenor saxophone, Olie Brice on bass and Tony Bianco on drums. They open their performance with "Amen" relishing in the freedom offered by the composition, further opened by their decision to have a second saxophonist instead of a pianist. Diving in fearlessly to the brief theme, and then a seething saxophone emerges to solo over roiling bass and drums. The volume and passion of the music is high and the emotion and excitement is palpable. The second saxophone has a darker and heavier tone, mining the depths of the massive pocket hewn by the bass and drums, placing the emphasis on group sound and collaboration. The urgent theme of “Sun Ship” is like a clarion call for their most unique approach to melody and rhythm, with Dunmall’s raw and scouring saxophone slashing brilliantly though a towering thicket of bass and drums. There is an intricate percussion solo, before the saxophones take hold of the sound again ripping at the very fabric of the music. After a set break, tenor saxophonist Alan Skidmore joins the quartet, for a massive version of “Attaining.” Opened by a deft bass solo, leading to a strong section of steely saxophone interaction with crisp bass and drums, slowly easing the out toward the outer limits, handing off to a higher pitched saxophone who glides over the heavy Elvin like drumming, then slyly quoting the theme from A Love Supreme before moving into a more abstract direction. The three saxophone front line works well adding squalls and gales to abut the imperturbable rhythm section. The full ensemble including the opening group comes together for the encore of John Coltrane’s towering “Ascension,” playing quite grandly. Stating the short theme, and then stretching out from there into a massive group improvisation, and some wonderfully coherent solos emerge, especially from the flute and saxophones. The group keeps it short and sweet, reeling the music back into an introduction of the musicians, humble thanks to Coltrane and conclusion. This was a wonderful album, played throughout with compassion and dignity, ferocious energy and deep desire to honor the source material and use it as a launching pad for the musicians own personal artistic goals. John Coltrane 50Th Memorial Concert At Cafe Oto - amazon.com

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