TONY BIANCO & PAUL DUNMALL

HOUR GLASS

EMANEM 4208

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PAUL DUNMALL tenor saxophone
MARCIO MATTOS double bass & electronics
TONY BIANCO drums & cymbals

A - HOUR GLASS - 60:44

PAUL DUNMALL soprano saxophone
PAUL ROGERS A.L.L. bass
TONY BIANCO drums & cymbals

B - THE TEPEES DIVE DEEPLY - 62:37

Digital studio recordings made in London by JON WILKINSON
A: 2002 February 27
B: 2002 April 16
Total time 123:25

All previously unissued

 

Excerpts from sleeve notes:

The title HOUR GLASS comes from a discussion Paul (Dunmall), Marcio and I had about the length of the recording we were going to do. We said let's play for one hour continuously. We did the same when we did the session with Paul (Rogers).

It's not that we were trying to run a marathon, just that when you play for that amount of time sometimes you run into certain musical episodes that are amazing. It's like you have to somehow be in contact with the whole piece from the beginning 'til the end and try to make it stand together without losing the spirit. I think we achieved this to some extent on these recordings.

To me the recordings reflect the seasonal changes going on at the time. The first one feels like the sun trying to emerge behind winter's darkness, while the second feels as if the sun is in command and summer is on its way. Anyway, I hope these recordings are enjoyed.

TONY BIANCO (2002)

These recordings will inevitably raise the question - is an hour too long? If the aim was to 'run into certain musical episodes that are amazing', then I think they have succeeded. There are certainly passages here that contain music that I have never heard from these participants, or perhaps from anyone else. So stay the course and you will be well rewarded. (As an aid, the two performances have been marked up as four tracks each.)

These pieces were not recorded with a double album in mind - they are just two sessions that Tony Bianco organised. However, with hindsight, they seem to work well together, as they are both similar and different.

Both performances are fuelled by the high octane drumming of Bianco, who is now living in London after previous lives in New York and Berlin. Both feature the fluent yet profound saxophone of Paul Dunmall (uniquely among these musicians living in his country of birth), although his use of tenor on the first and soprano on the second results in very different colours.

The two bass players work in a similar way, yet sound completely different. Marcio Mattos (long resident in London but originally from Rio de Janeiro) uses a conventional four-string double bass augmented by electronics that are used sparsely but tellingly. On the other hand, Paul Rogers (resident in Nimes - previously in London) can be heard on his new A.L.L. bass, made by Antoine Leducq, with six strings plus 12 sympathetic strings.

MARTIN DAVIDSON (2000)

 

Excerpts from reviews:

"Two stunning hour-long continuous performances driven by drummer Tony Bianco's supercharged and yet crisp metrical variations. Saxophonist Paul Dunmall matches his partner's improbable stamina and inventive phrasing. At once assertive and rigorously probing, Dunmall has evolved an unmistakably authoritative voice. On the first session, where he plays tenor, their headlong roll is rounded out with the sonorous spring of Marcio Mattos' bass. On the second, with Dunmall on soprano, it's Paul Rogers, wielding a new six-string bass fitted with sympathetic strings, who thickens and enriches the unceasing stream. Mattos is luxuriant, Rogers urgent and eloquent. Both respect the clarity and concentration of Bianco and Dunmall's forceful trajectory."

JULIAN COWLEY - THE WIRE 2002

"There are few clues in the two hour-long performances on this exhilarating album to tip off the blindfolded listener that HOUR GLASS was not recorded in New York during the '70s. This two-CD set exemplifies the spirit and stamina prevalent in such units as Sam Rivers' trios. Labelling drummer Tony Bianco and saxophonist Paul Dunmall's respective work-outs with bassists Marcio Mattos and Paul Rogers as loft jazz may be misleading, but arguable not more so than tagging it as improvised music, particularly as the latter designation, at least in Britain, increasingly signifies sensibilities considerably removed from the free jazz-informed exultancy that is the co-leaders' stock in trade.

Another against-the-grain aspect of these two improvisations is their duration. At a time when shorter pieces are becoming more prevalent in improvised music, Bianco and Dunmall opt for hour-long workouts. Their premise, summarised by Bianco in his sleeve note, adheres to traditional free jazz tenets in this regard; that by rigorously attending to the spirit of the music at such lengths, passages of exceptional creativity will likely emerge. Such passages are in ample supply on both the title piece, featuring Dunmall on tenor and Marcio Mattos on bass, and The Teepees Dive Deeply on which Dunmall plays soprano and Paul Rogers the amazing A.L.L. bass.

Though both pieces sustain high energy levels, they have contrasting rhythmic feels. A cursory listening would suggest that Dunmall's choice of horns are determinative, that the roar of his post-Coltrane tenor galvanises the title piece's power, and his soaring soprano triggers a sleeker propulsion. Yet closer scrutiny reveals Dunmall's counterparts to have equal influence in the shaping of the two pieces. Mattos provides plenty of torque with what used to be called a big sound, which he thickens with electronics at key points in the title piece. The extended range of the A.L.L. bass prompts Rogers to sprint through the registers with impressive agility, adding to the rhythmic lift of The Teepees Dive Deeply. Though Bianco provides a strong, flexible backbone for both pieces, there are subtle differences in his deployment of pungent cross-rhythms and pyrotechnic flourishes that are crucial to the way each pieces unfolds.

The music on HOUR GLASS is well integrated and cogent, whether you label it free jazz, improvised music, or something else."

BILL SHOEMAKER - JAZZ REVIEW 2002

"What is it with drummer Tony Bianco's playing that forces Paul Dunmall to put all the talent and energy he can spare in the music? This pair ranks among the most exciting units of high-energy improv in the early 2000s (matched maybe only by Paul Flaherty and Chris Corsano). HOUR GLASS adds two hours to their recorded output. Tony Bianco allies grace and power, propelling both sessions with unflinching stamina. On tenor, the saxophonist sticks closer to the free jazz idiom, while the soprano takes him deeper into circular breathing and abstract thinking. The two bass players have similar attitudes but their instruments bring out different colours. The second piece has a slightly awkward ending -- the conscious effort to stop after an hour is more obvious (as in forced) than in the first piece. But that remains a minor flaw for a brilliant album. This music is not for reductionism purists and listeners with a short attention span. On the other hand fans of Mujician will greatly appreciate."

FRANÇOIS COUTURE - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2002

"The trio with Mattos and Bianco is marked by the bassist's ceative manipulation of electronics, creating the kind of expansive drones and sonic environments that Dunmall likes to work within. He plays tenor throughout the continuous one-hour piece, a feat of physical control that equals some of Evan Parker's titanic performances. The other set finds him working with Paul Rogers. It's a more familiar partnership but no less stimulating and rewarding and the even longer The Teepees Dive Deeply is a wrenching, joyous experience."

RICHARD COOK and/or BRIAN MORTON - 'The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD' 2004

"The propulsive drumming of Bianco and the continuously ripping sax of Dunmall (particularly awesome on the soprano in the second CD of this double set 62 minutes named The Teepees Dive Deeply) are the main colours in this release. More than in other Emanem recordings, this has a contemporary 'jazzy' feel and - with ideas flowing one after another, often without stopping for VERY long spurts - it nevertheless results as a pretty relaxing meeting among complex musical personalities. What's really different here is the use of bass: in the hands of Mattos, who plays on the first set Hour Glass, you get classic deep, solid notes; the instrument is meant as a strong expressive communicator and meshes perfectly in a global conversation. On the other hand, with the pluri-stringed A.L.L. bass played by Rogers, one can almost smell wood, being its character a little more 'light-hearted' than the regular acoustic bass (but what a sound... likely to be appreciated by guitarists more than bassists). Tony Bianco's light but steady pulse and the never ending lung pumping by Paul Dunmall are absolutely astonishing; the same old 'thumbs up' is required, but that's no news to the label's aficionados."

MASSIMO RICCI - TOUCHING EXTREMES 2002

"Dunmall matches the inexhaustible percussive attack of Bianco. Each disc is an hour-long free improvisation workout. This post-Coltrane approach could even be considered post-Rashied Ali. Dunmall doesn't so much stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Peter Brötzmann blowing powerful blast of sound. He works in a shrewd energy pattern modulating much like the energy drummer Bianco. Bianco's approach might start with Ali, but he travels the same roads as Milford Graves and Frank Kiermeyer. Raucous playing is not his bag, he creates wave upon wave of energy working the cymbals in a continuous pattern. Bassists Mattos and Rogers hold their own, Mattos supplying light touches of electronics and Rogers meeting the energy waves head on. A brilliant addition to this uncompromising label."

MARK CORROTO - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 2002

"This is musicmaking on the heroic scale, the hour-long duration of each piece the aural equivalent of some giant Abstract Expressionist canvas. Although such marathon high-octane performances now have a long tradition behind them (and the example of Coltrane's late music weighs heavily on the music), they still present unusual challenges for both musicians and listeners, especially when (as here) the musicians go without the safety net of precomposed material. Perhaps a little unusually, both sessions on the set were recorded in the studio; one more often encounters such large-scale improvisation in the concert situation, where the spur of an audience helps keep inspiration and energy levels from flagging.

The discs are differentiated both by featuring different bassists and by Dunmall's choice of instrument. Disc 1, Hour Glass, finds Dunmall on tenor and Mattos on bass. The first ten minutes or so are comparatively temperate, but after that it's more or less full-throttle all the way, with only a few widely-spaced pauses that serve to bring the energy level down to a point from which it may be rebuilt. Mattos is a gargantuan presence, hacking and slashing away and very much at the centre of the music. With tenor and bass in such close quarters there's a strong sense of interaction, the players dodging around or banging up against each other. Bianco's drumming isn't terribly varied in approach or colour - basically, a continuous barrage that's turned up or down a notch as occasion demands - and his two solo features aren't especially different from each other or for that matter from what he does under the other players. The disc reaches a frenzied peak with the return of the saxophonist and bassist after Bianco's first solo (CD track 2); for this listener, diminishing returns set in after a while, but the performance holds together nonetheless without too many dry spells. Dunmall signals the approach of the end of the hour by scaling down his torrents-of-notes approach, rounding off the performance by working over a recognisable motif in more measured fashion.

Whereas Hour Glass took several minutes to fully heat up, The Tepees Dive Deeply virtually dispenses with preliminaries, with only a few seconds of musical handshakes before Dunmall is tossing off fluent streams of notes over pell-mell drums and the bass's rapidfire scribblings. Right off the bat there's 20 minutes or so of almost flat-out blowing, with only a halftime rest for a bass solo. Dunmall's a blunter player than, say, Coltrane or Evan Parker, and he tends to hit notes right on the head, producing rapid but entirely even and unbroken melodic streams. Despite the fiery nature of the music, he is generally quite lyrical and coherent, not at all prone to squalling or screaming: depending on your taste this is either all to the good, or perhaps (given the idiom he's working in) something of an expressive limitation. I'm rather happier when Dunmall at last staunches his flow a bit in the piece's more moderately paced central section, a 17-minute interlude which finds the trio engaging in more explicit dialogue and patiently exploring instrumental colour. Here Dunmall comes up with an extraordinary array of gobbles, clucks, broken trills, mewls, ghostly split tones and even a darn good imitation of a bagpipe chanter; Rogers bows away with vigour, producing hysterical flutters, ponderous drones and metallic slashes. After this interlude winds up it's back to the attack for the last 20 minutes of the piece, though there is now a more pointed sense of interplay between Rogers and Dunmall. The saxophonist winds the whole thing up with the same gesture as on Hour Glass, slowing down to work motivic variations in a fashion very much indebted to Coltrane.

On this date Bianco is rather more in the backseat - no drum solos on this one, I note. Rogers, too, isn't as central to the music as Mattos was to Hour Glass. This is in part because of the different sounds of the players: Mattos, using a conventional bass, is louder and more resonant than Rogers, who's playing a custom-made A.L.L. bass, which has six strings plus extra sympathetic strings (which give it an unusually metallic sound). But also there's the matter of Dunmall's use of soprano on the later session, so that the pitch gap between saxophone and bass reinforces Rogers' inclination to go his own way.

So, two hours of blowing, with only a break for a CD change: what's the final verdict? There's no getting around the fact that this is a tough listen, and on the whole I'd prefer music that permits both musicians and listeners the chance for a fresh start. But devotees of hard, muscular blowing will find much to savour across the span of these two discs."

NATE DORWARD - CADENCE 2002

 

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