I was extremely privileged to be able to sit in as the ‘professional listener’ on the recording and filming session on Sunday that Paul Dunmall led fronting a quartet with guitarist Steve Saunders, double bass player Dave Kane and drummer Miles Levin. This was at the excellent Sansom Studios on the edge of Birmingham near Solihull.
Dave Kane and Miles Levin have played with Paul fairly regularly, Dave with the quintet Paul leads with Hamid Drake, and Miles mostly in a duo setting with Paul. Steve Saunders, however, is a relatively new discovery of Paul’s, and this was the only the second or third time he has played with Paul. His joining Paul’s groups came about as a result of Mark Sanders hearing Steve’s Glitch trio and recommending him strongly to Paul.
The playing on the session was really strong, and this will make an excellent video when it is mixed. What I found particularly interesting was that Paul asked the band to come in to have a kind of rehearsal on the day before the recording. Rehearsal is not really the right word for what they were doing; the music was totally improvised, and it was more of run through or getting to know each other musicially than a usual rehearsal in which tunes are rehearsed. It might be thought that an improvised session does not need a run through, but after the actual recording Paul was clear that the ‘rehearsal’ on the previous day had set up the actual recording, and the music was all the stronger for it.
Paul was on top form, creating long fascinating solos on his various saxophones and clarinet. He played the tenor, the alto and also the saxello that he inherited from Elton Dean. Paul has an amazing ability to listen to what is going on musically around him, and to react to it with creative, in-the-moment ideas. What was also very interesting to me was that in the ‘rehearsal’ it emerged that the quartet and, particularly Dave Kane and Miles Levin, were generating a strong pulse by going into time in certain passages. This continued during the actual recording and gave the music a distinctive character that made it less abstract compared with other improvised music. Both Dave and Miles are great time players as well as improvisers.
Steve Saunders reacted in all sorts of ways to what Paul, Dave and Miles were doing and created his own totally original, attention grabbing contributions, both in the collective improvisation passages and in his own solos.
The recording will be out in a month or so and will be on the Fizzle YouTube Channel. The date will be publicised on this site and on social media. It is strongly recommended!