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PAUL DUNMALL border bagpipes [1, 4], soprano saxophone [1, 3 - 5], tenor saxophone [2]
STEVIE WISHART hurdy-gurdy [1, 4, 5]
PAUL LYTTON percussion [2 - 5]

3 - IT’S IN YOUR EAR - 6:04
4 - THE EARS HAVE IT - 15:59

Digital concert recording made in Brussels at L'Archiduc
by Michael W. Huon - 2003 January 26
Total time 57:38

All previously unissued


Excerpts from sleeve notes:

In trying to organise a concert of Paul Dunmall, we thought about a duo with Paul Rogers, but there was not enough money for his transportation from the south of France. So, PD proposed to perform with a 'local musician', and I thought about Paul Lytton as he lives here near the German border. Besides their many years together in Barry Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra, they have never previously played together in a smaller unit.

Also, knowing that Paul D would bring his bagpipes to the gig, I had an 'idea' although I don't like to be intrusive in the process of creating groups and meetings. Living next to the Archiduc is Stevie Wishart, an improvising musician specialising in the hurdy-gurdy, which she also performs in medieval music. Her own Sinfonye ensemble performed and recorded under her direction the marvellous Hildegard von Bingen's Gregorian Hymns for female choir, among much other medieval and renaissance music. Stevie, who is also a violinist, has worked intensively with Jim Denley and the Chris Burn Ensemble.

Thinking that the pairing of bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy would be nice, I suggested that both musicians play as a duo to begin the concert. They were unknown to each other both as persons and artists, but they agreed after some hesitation. As the improv concerts in the Archiduc present three different sets - a common practice with many other improv gigs - both Pauls invited her to share the third set, and it worked out fine.

Visually, the tall bearded piper with a blonde female hurdy-gurdyist caused a sensation with the audience and helped them to listen closely. The silence and the concentration of the attendance added something special to this unusual soft music, the Archiduc being a small crowded bar with clients ordering drinks. Also, Paul L was drumming with one horn player and no one else. I think that his drumming is so specific that to listen to his playing with nothing else in the space helps to fully appreciate many of his unexpected strokes. Dunmall matches the shifting complex polyrhythms with his stamina.

For over twenty years, PL has been so fully associated with the high energy trio music of Parker/Guy/Lytton, that many listeners and musicians ignore, forget and underestimate his ability to freely improvise in a less intensely dense music. He described it as écriture automatique (automatic writing), avoiding the technical side of things for the close listening reactions to the moment. It is what happened (seeing him play was so rewarding) in the final set with PD and Stevie. She went through this nicely with the idiosyncrasies of her instrument contrasting with the fluidity of Paul's soprano sax. The saxophonist seems to make his soprano sound affectionate when he needs to listen intensely while playing.



Excerpts from reviews:

"The duos and trio on IN YOUR SHELL LIKE contain some of the most searching music of Dunmall's career to date. Stevie Wishart's hurdy-gurdy plays directly to his folkier side, though the balance of instruments isn't brought off too well. He's far more of an abstract/improv player in Lytton's company, using tenor, soprano and bagpipes with equal effect, but this is a quieter, more contemplative album than some. The percussionist is in great form, sly, subtle and intensely aware of context, and the tracks which bring all three players together (basically the last 20 minutes of the record) are superb. A nice recording from L'Archiduc in Brussels."

RICHARD COOK and/or BRIAN MORTON - 'The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD' 2006

"Neo-cons and other tin-eared types who harp on Free Music's so-called break with tradition, should listen carefully to the first track on this CD. They want tradition? Here's the sounds of two British musicians creating top rank improvisations using instruments that cast the saxophone and drum sets favoured by the neo-boppers into the realm of recent novelties. Paul Dunmall confines his playing to the border bagpipes, while Stevie Wishart extracts unique timbres from the hurdy-gurdy. If racket and clamour are avant-garde, then musicians playing the Scottish and Irish pipes and the portable mechanical viol have been bizarre ultramodernists for at least two centuries. Dunmall and Wishart aren't predictable players on their traditional axes. As a matter of fact, there are points on Shells and Other Things that the wavering pitch vibrations could easily be linked to synthesized tones.

Throughout, the reedist's steady spew of air, often circularly breathed, is decorated with oscillating arpeggios from Wishart's rosined bow. If Dunmall's style on the chanter appears to have the same velocity and elasticity as his sax work, then Wishart's stopped strings produce the sort of sul ponticello notes that resonate as if they were looped through a sequencer. Not only that, but she can produce tones as wide as you find from any accordion, and his flutter-toned interface can also be as stretched or as compact as if it came from a saxophone reed.

IN YOUR SHELL LIKE isn't some trendy example of medieval jazz fusion either. Once they're joined by percussionist Paul Lytton, the three merely output sounds they feel to the best of their talents, on whatever instruments. Before that however there's Nothing To Do with Shells, a tenor saxophone-drums duet that could be characterized as the CD's jazz track. Using the primeval jazz instrument, Dunmall double- and triple-tongues, honks and snorts. Meanwhile Lytton rolls, bounces and rumbles, but shows his BritImprov allegiance by spending as much time evenly tapping his cymbals and a wood block. Then, as the saxophonist spins out multiphonics that grow, combine and split, Lytton appears to be heaving an elongated chain up and down the stairs. As a prelude to Free Jazz snorting and honking, Dunmall introduces a trenchant buzz that makes his point forcefully, until Lytton's rustling cymbals and chain links join him in double counterpoint. Lighter-toned than previously, Dunmall's octave runs seem almost pastoral when linked to Lytton's single, sharp cymbal chime.

More than 16 minutes in length, The Ears Have It mixes both traditions, with Dunmall playing bagpipes and soprano saxophone at different times. Rigid string plucks and stops plus floor-rolled unselected cymbals and bell responses back the saxophonist's twitters. With Wishart creating an altissimo drone, and Lytton ratcheting rebounds, Dunmall switches to bagpipes, so that circular breathing ululations from the chanter are supplemented by harsh whirr and the drone undercurrents from the hurdy-gurdy. Adding an additional buzz, Lytton wets a finger and strokes it across a drum head. Climax is reached as the reedist ripples and surges those fully-formed chanter tones with the bellows as the other instruments evaporate into silence, except for the occasional snare bang and muted string vibration. Some of the best improv you'll ever hear on 20th, 19th or 16th century instruments is right here."


"If you know his discography at all beyond the Mujician cooperative, it's really no surprise that saxophonist Paul Dunmall's latest venture for Emanem is an improv gig involving hurdy-gurdy experimentalist and medieval scholar Stevie Wishart. It is, however, astonishing how well it worked. While this Brussels concert is their first collaboration, Dunmall has made frequent use of drones and 'exotic' instruments within his ever-increasing corpus.

The first track here, Shells And Other Things, opens with a few preparatory gestures - Wishart sliding and swooping up and down the hurdy-gurdy and Dunmall seeking pitch synchronicity on his border pipes - pave the way for some gorgeous multiphonics. There's nothing more satisfying than to hear Dunmall and Wishart lock in to an interval, rich with overtones, and drift away from it again only to find a new and more complex tonal center. While I've enjoyed Dunmall's earlier border pipe discs for Duns and FMR, his playing here surpasses them in subtlety and variety. At 8:25 into this opening performance, Dunmall switches to a light and delicate soprano, the interplay becoming sparser and more pointillistic. Dunmall's breathy interrogations and occasional sharp jabs are matched step for step by Wishart's chromatic rasps, glides and clicks. A passing siren lends a humorous but appropriately aleatoric vibe to the proceedings.

Elsewhere, the aptly named Nothing to Do With Shells is the only track on which Dunmall is his typically frenetic self; he is in post-Coltrane mode throughout. He lets loose on tenor, quartal and scalar gestures alternating easily with braps and squawks. Paul Lytton, onboard for the rest of the gig, is the perfect foil for Dunmall's continually shifting rhetoric, his own playing consisting more of timbral motives in flux rather than serially morphing rhythmic ideas. Jean-Michel Van Shouwberg is correct to praise Lytton's duo work in his liner notes; here, as much as on the Evan Parker / Lytton reissues on Psi, listeners are afforded a new appreciation for the percussionist's grasp of colour and gifts as an orchestrator.

The rest of the disc returns to the beautifully Webernian gestalt of the first track's conclusion. The second Dunmall / Lytton duo, much more subdued than the first and with Dunmall back on soprano, sets the stage for two trio pieces. These are studies in controlled silence, their spectral qualities enhanced by 'oriental' pluckings, glisses and ornaments. Replete with equal measures of classical reserve and dry whimsy, they conclude an immensely satisfying release that fans of any of the three participants should waste no time in acquiring."


"In addition to his work on saxes, Dunmall continues to raise the profile of the border bagpipes as an instrument for improvisation. Although at first they may have been considered an interesting novelty-and maybe evidence of his past associations with folk musicians-bagpipes must now be considered one of Dunmall's principal instruments, on a par with the tenor and soprano saxes. With this in mind, promoter Jean-Michel van Schouwberg arranged for improvising hurdy-gurdy player Stevie Wishart to join a musical meeting of Dunmall and Paul Lytton.

It turns out to have been an inspired move. On the opener, Shells and Other Things, a duo between Dunmall and Wishart, the drone of the pipes is complemented by that of the hurdy-gurdy so that the two become inextricably entwined, over the top of which Dunmall adds an ever evolving melody line. Some traditionalists will doubtless be horrified at this use of the pipes and hurdy-gurdy, while the rest of us just listen in open-mouthed pleasure. Midway through this track, Dunmall switches to soprano sax, giving a restrained performance which affords the hurdy-gurdy equal status, rather than cutting loose and blowing.

Dunmall is more animated on his two duos with Lytton, Nothing to do with Shells, where he plays tenor, and It's in your Ear, where he plays soprano. On tenor sax, Dunmall pours forth typically full-tilt, adrenalin-inducing, Trane-inspired performances that include a relentless torrent of ideas. It is interesting to hear Paul Lytton play with a saxophonist other than his frequent associate Evan Parker. In a duo where he has to match Dunmall stride for stride, Lytton gives as good as he gets, playing at breathtaking speed but also responding to and enhancing Dunmall's ideas. At over fifteen minutes, this is one of the album's highlights. The duo with soprano sax is far shorter but has the same intensity and energy.

The last two tracks feature all three players together, with Dunmall again using pipes to good effect on The Ears have it. His playing is an intriguing amalgam, clearly displaying the influence of traditional and folk-based pipes, going beyond the accepted boundaries but tacitly accepting their existence. I suppose that is similar to the way his sax playing relates to jazz: going outside the boundaries not ignoring them. Dunmall and Lytton are far more restrained and reflective than on their duos, no doubt in deference to the hurdy-gurdy. Indeed, this is like two contrasting albums, one with hurdy-gurdy and one without.

It would be difficult to claim that Dunmall never makes a bad album; like most listeners, I cannot claim to be keeping up with all of them. Nevertheless, this is definitely well up to scratch."


"Two reasons to get this album, amidst all of Dunmall's available recordings: first, this concert features the saxophonist playing duets and trios with two improvisers he had never played with in small group settings before; second, Stevie Wishart's work is cruelly under-documented. And her hurdy-gurdy opens up a gripping dialogue with Dunmall¹s border bagpipes in the opening piece Shells and Other Things. The pipes tend to drown out Wishart¹s instrument, but the pairing is nevertheless pretty unique (and it was the first time the two of them ever performed together). Then, we move on to two duets with drummer Paul Lytton, and the music falls back to known territory. Things are less frantic than what Dunmall usually plays with other drummers (the most frantic being Tony Bianco), as Lytton¹s textural approach seems to drive the saxophonist further down the abstract lane. The short It's in Your Ear, with Dunmall on soprano sax, provides a highlight. The last two pieces feature all three musicians and the 16-minute The Ears Have It is simply one of those magical moments of free improvisation where unlikely instruments come together to paint riveting landscapes of alien yet strangely familiar appearance. Halfway through Dunmall switches from soprano sax to bagpipes, fracturing the sound of the drone in his own unique way, while Lytton is rubbing his drum skins with his palms and Wishart delicately drones away. The short concluding title track is a bit too meandering to make a memorable finale, but that's only a small disappointment in an otherwise impressive album. Sound quality on this live recording at L¹Archiduc in Brussels (Belgium) is excellent (and we wouldn't expect less from Emanem). IN YOUR SHELL LIKE may not be a key Dunmall recording, but it represents a rare quieter outing, rich in surprises and unique in sound."


"IN YOUR SHELL LIKE conjugates the almost confounding bravura - of course minus any ostentation - of Paul Dunmall's elegant whip lashing with Paul Lytton's prosperous world of fractal-based squalls and deforested regularities; the third of this perfect pair, Stevie Wishart, appears in three of the five tracks playing a masterfully evocative hurdy-gurdy. Various permutations of sonic ideologies come to confrontation, with the players showing large doses of respect and a rude will to establish some sort of personal opinion; yet, the brilliance of the performances shows that only highly skilled musicians can subvert appearence, neutralising any creeping difference to investigate new ways of sounding 'global' in the strictest sense. Even if the whole CD is full of delicious interchanges of acoustic riddlings, the bagpipes coupled with the hurdy-gurdy's drone is something enough to leave you contemplating - and with the addition of Lytton's soft rumbles (check The Ears Have It) all takes you right to an educated ecstasy."


"Separated from the comfortable tumult of a rhythm section, Dunmall's typically boisterous reeds reveal a finely etched attack with no loss of intensity. Indeed, his tenor saxophone/drum duo with Lytton, Nothing To Do With Shells, is torrential, yet sounds like he's tracing implicit chords able to resolve in any conceivable direction. The addition of Wishart's hurdy-gurdy, however, raises the ante. The Ears Have It evolves like bees constructing a hive, with eerie string scratching, reed wailing, pseudo-electronic squeals and muezzin calls. Even more evocative is the duo Shells And Other Things, where the droning, buzzing hurdy-gurdy and Dunmall's bagpipes create the illusion of itinerant medieval musicians sitting by the fire wafting mesmerising sounds through a draughty castle."


"Shells and Other Things weaves/contrasts long, sustained tones on both bagpipes and soprano sax and the whirr of the hurdy-gurdy - with its heartfelt folk-y overtones, it's minimalist free improv from atop a hill in Scotland. Nothing To Do With Shells is wailing tenor & drums a la Coltrane's INTERSTELLAR SPACE: very free but also very driven & cathartic, with Dunmall occasionally echoing the gruff bellows of Albert Ayler and David S. Ware, and the title track is a crackling, mercurial three-way dialogue. SHELL practically embodies what's missing from a fair portion of free improv albums these days: heart & chutzpah."



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