This is a quite simply ensemble playing at the very highest quality…

Discus Music: 148CD

Paul Dunmall; tenor and soprano saxophones; Julie Tippetts: voice; Charlotte Keeffe: trumpet and flugelhorn; Richard Foote: trombone;  double bass; Jim Bashford: drums; Martin Archer: alto and baritone saxophones, harmonica

Recorded 12th September 2022 by Olly Sansom at Sansom Studio, Birmingham.

Hot on the heels of last year’s excellent ‘Yes Tomorrow’ album, Dunmall has expanded the ensemble and created a suite of 9 pieces (the final 5 grouped in 2 pieces running to 10 and 20 minutes). The opener, ‘Calling the Spirits’, at 17’33 and mixing several moods, melodies and styles acts as a suite in its own right.

This begins exuberantly with Tippetts’ repeated invocation, using the tunes title, is buoyed along with rich ensemble playing and some masterful mixtures of post-bop rhythmic patterns. Dunmall then launches into a solo that is steeped in vintage bebop, drawing the ensemble to pulsating support.

He then cedes the platform to Archer’s alto and Foote’s trombone and a rambunctious rhythm section, before Owston’s bass solo merges with Tippetts’ mediatative scat signing and Saunders skittering guitar lines and Keefe’s playful trumpet. As a means of introducing and showcasing the ensemble, this works well.

The second, ‘Golden boat’, and third, ‘Purple Dance’, pieces have Tippetts at her most powerful and resplendent, as she effortlessly switches from delivering lyrics in a punchy rhythm to scaling the heights with wordless scat-singing.

Throughout the album, her singing responds to the ensemble and they to her. Riffs from the ensemble find their way into her vocalisations and vice versa, mutating, morphing and growing in complexity.

As a means of showcasing Dunmall’s compositional and arranging skills, the piece works superbly. I really enjoy the clash of styles and techniques that the piece encourages in the players and the vivacity with which they respond to this.

One could list a host of experimental ensembles as reference points to illustrate the way in which each of Dunmall’s compositions comfortably mix an avant-garde attitude to breaking rules with a deeply held respect for the various generations of jazz musical idioms.

But such a list would do a disservice to the richness and originality of the playing here. This is quite simply ensemble playing of the very highest quality, made particularly refreshing and exciting by Tippetts’ signing and vocal gymnastics.

Reviewed by Chris Baber