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Paul Dunmall/John Adams/Mark Sanders: Ghostly Thoughts

Paul Dunmall is coming on. For years, the English saxophonist has racked up impressive credentials with, among others, Mujician, London Jazz Composers Orchestra and Elton Dean. Yet, recordings under his leadership, such as the striking Desire And Liberation, are a recent development; combined with co-op efforts like Ghostly Thoughts, they promise to raise Dunmall’s stock as an adventurous improviser who hasn’t forsaken his jazz roots.

Dunmall’s collaboration with electric guitarist John Adams and drummer Mark Sanders substantially deflates the silly elitist notion that jazz is no longer relevant to the pursuit of improvised music. This is not to suggest that Ghostly Thoughts is an album preoccupied with the idiom in any of its manifestations. Many of these improvisations begin in the prescribed non-idiomatic manner, as fragments of sound orbit about each other, coalescing into progressively longer strands that provide the primarily textural elements of continuity for the improvisation. Yet, at some point in the process, an element of jazz heat enters into the mix, triggering Dunmall’s post-Coltrane squalls on tenor and baritone, Adams’ riveting runs and Sanders’ groundswell of cross rhythms. The resulting music is engrossing, as it is propelled by palpable emotions rather than arcane concepts.

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