After attending the excellent Keith Tippett Weekend in Bristol (see my review here), it was good to be able to come home and listen to the recording that was made by one of Tippett’s key groups, Mujician, during their tour in 2010 marking Tony Levin’s 70th Birthday. It is their last studio recording and, after having already played two gigs on the tour, the quartet was on top form. This is undoubtedly one of their finest recordings.
Mujician was Paul Dunmall on saxophones and bagpipes, Keith Tippett on piano, Paul Rogers on bass and Tony Levin on drums, and the name comes from one of Tippett’s children’s mispronunciation of ‘musician’. It’s a very powerful group with four strong individuals; it’s an improvising group, but much more than that, given that it would on occasion move into other styles. It worked together for 22 years until Levin’s death, not all the time of course, and each member of the group had their own projects, but they built up a mutual understanding such that they could take the music in many different directions.
All this apparent on this recording made on 10th October 2010 at the University of Bristol Studios; there are just two extended tracks, 10 10 10 at 25.52 mins, and Remember at 30.48 mins. Although I’m not keen on the journey metaphor, it seems appropriate to say that both tracks take the listener on a journey through a number of very different passages. The first track, 10 10 10, starts with the drums and Tippett comes in with a characteristic and entirely appropriate reaction. A call and response sequence between drums and piano follows before Dunmall comes in with the flow of ideas which always seem to characterise his playing. Gradually the tension builds up with all four players interacting. This leads into a more thoughtful passage also notable for the interaction between the players, but then this gradually builds up again into a very forceful and high energy passage with Dunmall leading and Tippett providing dramatic piano support. Interestingly, the mood then changes, and the music goes into a gentler passage that has an air of mystery with rumbling piano, repeated notes from the tenor saxophone, high notes on the bass and a warm sound from the drums played with mallets. And so it goes on in different directions until the track concludes with an intense passage which gradually winds down at the end of the improvisation.
Track two, Remember, follows a similar pattern with the mood and energy levels constantly changing. Interestingly, the track begins with a dialogue between Dunmall and Tippett which has more of a jazz feel to it before the music becomes much free-er. This jazz feel re-emerges about a third of the way through the track. There are intense passages and quiet passages, the latter with bowed bass from Rogers, a drum solo from Levin, and Dunmall leads the conclusion on bagpipes.
Throughout the music retains its cohesion and coherence through all the changes of mood, and it is fascinating to hear how a structure emerges from the improvisation as the players negotiate the different passages.