Paul Dunmall, Mark Hanslip, Philip Gibbs and Ed Ricart – Weeping Idols
(FMR CD 356-0513. CD review by Andy Boeckstaens)
Weeping Idols was recorded in Bristol in 2012. It features Paul Dunmall and Mark Hanslip on tenor saxophones and the electric guitars of Philip Gibbs and Ed Ricart (mis-spelt as “Ricard” on the CD).
Their 50-minute session is documented in its entirety. Although some structural details were agreed beforehand – such as the absence of saxes on the final piece – the four improvisations evolve without any plan or process. That they emerge with form and style is testament to the compatibility of the musicians who (presumably) are referenced in the title of the opening piece, 4 Souls, 8 Eyes.
There are few clues as to who does what, but Mark Hanslip has helpfully explained that the “jazzier” guitar is Gibbs’, whereas Ricart often employs a more distorted timbre. Dunmall’s is generally the faster of the saxophones, while Hanslip plays the multiphonic parts. No-one leads and no-one muscles their way to the front.
Better Than Words begins with a saxophone duet. Soon after the guitars join in, there is a free playfulness and a section that brings to mind the early harmolodic excursions of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time band.
Amongst the plinking, buzzing and skittering there is a lot of conventional tone production. Many passages are surprisingly reflective. On Bhutan (which has Dunmall on soprano sax) you can almost hear the men thinking. The unexpected percussive noises are likely to have been created by the guitarists finger-tapping the fretboard and using effects pedals.
The first couple of minutes of the closing track, Weeping Idols, sound like Clapton and Blackmore were crammed into a confined space and told to do something progressive. Gibbs and Ricart pull themselves together, the beefy tones subside, and the album concludes with the thoughtfulness and focus that distinguishes most of this CD.
Free improv has the ability to be the most exhilarating music of all. Fulfilment comes from the sonic relationship between the participants, and it stems from listening and discipline. On this recording, teamwork is everything.