Paul Dunmall Quintet: Yes Tomorrow

Veteran saxophonist leads a group of young soloists from Birmingham Conservatoire through some of his ostinato-based pieces

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I had a huge problem last year when I had to update Paul Dunmall’s entry in the online Grove Dictionary Of Jazz, as his career has been so varied and so prolific. With more than 160 albums to his name, and many more appearances as a sideman, Dunmall is a hard man to pin down, despite his evidently pivotal role.

Fortunately, his latest release focuses the mind a bit, as it concentrates on his work as a composer, working with a range of material that celebrates the wealth of his experience, including aspects of jazz, funk and soul. The flexible, ostinato-based pieces are all constructed around the unique musical personalities of the players; the first soloists on each track being the only preordained performance decision.

The soloists themselves are a quartet of fiery, young Birmingham Conservatoire musicians, dominated by the self-assured yet distinctively brittle sound of guitarist Steven Saunders, whose sets the album’s tone right from the opening riff; indeed, Dunmall has commented that this is “a guitarist’s album” on which he is more than happy to lay out for long stretches. Trombonist Richard Foote contrasts and complements Dunmall’s and Sanders’s improvisational approaches, while both bassist James Owston and drummer Jim Bashford are a fine partnership that propels the music forward. As for Dunmall, he is as inventive as ever, but perhaps more concise that usual, fitting into the ensemble rather than dominating it.

Of the eight tracks, Medgar Evens stands out for its Mingus-style blues preaching, Cosmic Communion for its propulsive bass solo and fluid guitar solo, and Golden Age for its brooding swagger, but in truth, all are urgent and forthright, except the concluding Every Soul, an extended solo outing for Dunmall that offers a thoughtful commentary on what has gone before, an evocative ending to a very strong set.

Discography
Micromys Minutus; Medgar Evers; Cosmic Communion; Drum; Parrots; Golden Age; Yes Tomorrow; Every Soul (73.24)
Dunmall (as, ts); Richard Foote (tb); Steven Saunders (g); James Owston (b); Jim Bashford (d). Birmingham, 19 September 2021.
Discus 134CD