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October 2006

Mujician
There's No Going Back Now
Cuneiform Records

Sure, it’s darn near as formulaic as bebop, but I can still get something out of a session like this—four monster improvisers, highly attuned to one another, free-associating together for the better part of an hour. Mujician is pianist Keith Tippett, bassist Paul Rogers, drummer Tony Levin and saxophonist Paul Dunmall. As for the music…well, you know the drill. Webern-ish plinks and plunks, intervallic relationships that avoid any intimation of a tonal center, texturally driven with the occasional melody flying by at warp speed.

The substance of such music depends less on the larger (wholly amorphous) form than on the smallest detail. Musicians like these give you infinite facets on which to focus. Swing is seldom made explicit but usually implied in their phrasing. The arc of the performance is natural and effective. For music like this to succeed, the players must be aware of contrasts in dynamics and density. These guys are, absolutely. There’s not much here in the way of blues tonality, but that’s an expected difference between stateside bands and British free-jazz outfits. It certainly takes nothing away from the music, which in terms of content is first-rate.

Originally published in October 2006
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