by Fred Jung

Since I am having such a hard time finding free improv heroes outside of Chicago in the States, I turn across the Atlantic to Europe. One of the European improvisers that has caught my ear is Paul Dunmall, a saxophone and bagpipe extraordinaire. The following is part one of as many parts as Dunmall wants of our conversation together, as always brought to you unedited and in his own words.

FRED JUNG: Let’s start from the beginning.

PAUL DUNMALL: My father was a very good semi pro drummer and my grandmother had a lovely singing voice and very good ear. As a young boy, my father taught me drum rudiments and let me play his kit. I started clarinet lessons when I was twelve and slowly enjoyed playing music more and more. I was taught to play classical clarinet, but I also remember that I always improvised as well as doing scales and studies. It just seemed the natural thing to do, to enjoy your instrument and the sounds that it produced plus making your own music up. Once you have tasted the joys of music making and the feeling that it creates, it’s hard to stop and that’s what I have been doing since those early days many years ago.

Interview With Paul Dunmall

March 1999
By Allen J. Huotari

The UK jazz scene has produced an inordinate number of talented saxophonists, both relatively well known (Evan Parker, John Surman, Elton Dean, Lol Coxhill) and relatively obscure (Chris Biscoe, Trevor Watts, Tony Coe, Ray Warleigh, the late Gary Windo). But what characterizes most of these musicians is not only their remarkable abilities, but also their longevity, relentless pursuit of new musical territory within jazz, and their dogged determination to work outside the “confines” of jazz.

No exception to this characterization and one about to receive a much deserved higher profile outside the Britjazz scene, is PAUL DUNMALL, thanks to the release of his latest recording BEBOP STARBURST, courtesy of Cuneiform Records. Although his career has charted a circuitous path, performing and recording with a multitude of nearly legendary artists (refer to “Paul Dunmall biography/selected discography”), Dunmall is probably best known as 1/4 of Mujician (also part of the Cuneiform roster) in which he works with veteran UK jazz pianist Keith Tippett and long time rhythm section partners, Paul Rogers (bass) and Tony Levin (drums).

However, for BEBOP STARBURST, Dunmall leads an octet which includes all of Mujician in addition to Simon Pickard (tenor sax), Annie Whitehead (trombone), Chris Bridges (trombone), and Gethin Liddington (trumpet).

While all of Mujician are present, BEBOP STARBURST is NOT simply Mujician plus guests. On the contrary, with the recording, Paul Dunmall “summons his Be-Bop roots with a vengeance…and effectively illustrates the boundless concepts that could be derived from Be-Bop as a musical art form…the Octet aggressively takes on its own identity from the onset. Dunmall maintains the patented swift pace and ‘free-style’ approach (of Mujician) yet also explores crafty and fertile brass arrangements…twisting the notions of Be-Bop to various extremes.” (Glenn Astarita – AAJ February 1999 Modern Jazz Reviews)

AAJ is pleased to present, as the first installment in what is hoped to be a continuing series of profiles of UK jazz musicians, an interview with Paul Dunmall (special thanks to Joyce Feigenbaum of Cuneiform for facilitating the interview, and to Glenn Astarita for suggesting this project and acting as intermediary)