Paul Dunmall Octet The Great Divide

Altoist Dunmall has been a part of a British jazz scene centred around Keith Tippett's Mujician. The Great Divide is the Octet's second release, and it personifies the best of swingin' free improvisation. Composed of four members of Mujician, including pianist Tippett, the rhythm section of Paul Rogers and Tony Levin (not the Peter Gabriel bassist), and containing a double reed and triple brass line-up, the sound is hard-driving, bop-infused energy. It's always played soulfully, even as it is ever shifting. Incredibly written riffs fade in and out as if they were written as such, but are actually the product of good listening. The first part of the album is one continuous improvisation divided into five parts. Each section is intelligently demarcated, corresponding to the themes and moods among the players. Tippett seems to inspire many of the moods, particularly in the power chords introducing "Part 4," and Dunmall excels in extended solos rooted in bop but going way out. The only disappointment to the album is, unfortunately, its centrepiece, in which eight other musicians are added. It is a full-on group improv in which the sound is muddy and unflattering to the large ensemble, which sounds as though it could have rehearsed a few more times. Still, there's good music on The Great Divide. (Cuneiform)