|One Final Note Review For years now, multi-instrumentalist Paul Dunmall has reiterated his initial shock and horror upon hearing Coltrane’s “Meditations” at 17 years of age. He is also quick to acknowledge his conversion to Trane’s later aesthetic. “Meditations” and “Ascension” are certainly models for “The Great Divide”—the hour-long piece, recorded for Cuneiform, of which Bridging is a fairly faithful concert adaptation.
For this 2002 Lisbon date, “The Great Divide” serves as the connective tissue for collective and solo improv at every possible dynamic level. As with “Ascension”, melodic passages are interspersed with free blowing, but Dunmall shows no fear of sacrificing freedom to order and vice versa. Like Mingus, Dunmall knows the effectiveness of a well-placed triad, and, when they occur, these offer a sweet and refreshing simplicity.
Dunmall and his chosen players—an augmented version of the Mujician quartet—are equally skilled in the arts of reference and extemporization. I get the impression that each musician would be as comfortable playing a “straight” version of “’Round Midnight” as playing “out”. Especially noteworthy are Keith Tippett and Paul Rogers’ solo contributions. Tippett’s customary prepared piano is in full effect here, blending John Cage and McCoy Tyner in a mesmerizing display of controlled virtuosity. Rogers’ bass bowing is impeccable, no matter which register he chooses and the ideas flowing out of him bridge drone and atonality with supreme inventiveness and consummate passion.
It is passion that separates Bridging from its studio counterpart. The live recording is not first-rate, and it is an outdoor concert, but somehow this only increases the tension and energy generated by the musicians and the material. From the first breathless moments of Dunmall’s opening bagpipe solo, the proceedings are fraught with a manic loose-cannon intensity that does not dissipate until the final ensemble passages 58 minutes later. Even the natural elements show their appreciation, the wind providing a thunderous transition into “The Great Divide”’s first section. After such relentless excitement, the pared-down “Wind” is icing on the cake!