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Keith Tippett/Julie Tippetts/Philip Gibbs/Paul Dunmall: Mahogany Rain (577)

A review of the quartet's concert album recorded in England in 2005

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Keith Tippett/Julie Tippetts/Philip Gibbs/Paul Dunmall: Mahogany Rain
The cover of Mahogany Rain by Keith Tippett, Julie Tippetts, Philip Gibbs, and Paul Dunmall

Recorded at the Victoria Rooms, Bristol, England, in 2005, this unusual concert album sounds alternately like four musicians improvising; four gerbils playing in a cage; four erector sets toppling on their maker; and four lost souls finding peace, comfort, and solace in random attractions. Performed by the late pianist Keith Tippett, vocalist Julie Tippetts, guitarist Philip Gibbs, and saxophonist Paul Dunmall—with the Tippetts (a married couple for 50 years) adding a bewildering variety of percussion instruments, from pebbles and seedpods to thumb pianos and Tibetan singing bowls—Mahogany Rain was originally recorded “for a small 100-copy release,” the liner notes state. “The single extended [63-minute] track on Mahogany Rain offers an hour of mesmerizing improvisational sound, sparsely composed and deeply experimental.”

Mostly extemporaneous, the music follows a path of no path, only adhering to the deep concentration and playfulness of each musician, each attentively following the internal mental linkage of the group, resulting in something rather profound. In lesser hands and voices, Mahogany Rain might be avant-garde gibberish. But this collage of eerie vocal quavers, percussion rolls, sighs, and rattles interspersed with electric bass doodles and beautiful saxophone playing makes one’s ears perk up, the music’s sound unlike anything else, certainly nothing conventional. At every turn, the U.K. masters explore the boundaries of sonic self-interrogation. The music rises and falls, never attacking the ears but soothing the soul, each unusual bend in this road less traveled leading to more novelties, rabbit holes as appealing as watching a sunset, your toes playing in the ocean, your mind lost at sea.

Learn more about Mahogany Rain on Bandcamp!


Ken Micallef

Ken Micallef was once a jazz drummer; then he found religion and began writing about jazz rather than performing it. (He continues to air-drum jazz rhythms in front of his hi-fi rig and various NYC bodegas.) His reportage has appeared in Time Out, Modern Drummer, DownBeat, Stereophile, and Electronic Musician. Ken is the administrator of Facebook’s popular Jazz Vinyl Lovers group, and he reviews vintage jazz recordings on YouTube as Ken Micallef Jazz Vinyl Lover.