|L-R: John O’Gallagher, Paul Dunmall, John Edwards|
Paul Dunmall meets John O’Gallagher
(The Vortex. 1 February 2017. Review by Brianna McClean)
Last night, on an average rainy London evening, an intimate audience was privileged witness to a far from average triumph of Free Jazz. On the humble stage of Vortex Jazz Club, two saxophone masters, Paul Dunmall and John O’Gallagher, met. Joined by John Edwards on double bass and Mark Sanders on drums, this was a collaboration destined for success. Expectations were exceeded as the performance unfolded into heights of vibrancy, innovation and unparalleled technical skill.
Vortex Jazz Club, a nostalgic icon of the British Jazz scene, was the perfect venue for this meeting of minds. A full audience pushed the space to capacity, a disappointingly rare occurrence for Vortex. Before the gig, Paul Dunmall could be found standing by the bar, deep in conversation with an audience member. This was in keeping with the warm and enthusiastic atmosphere of the entire evening.
The performance was formed into two lengthy and uninterrupted improvisations, weaving a story of hypnotic rhythm and colour over several hours. The musicians were very much in conversation with each other; a careful dance of listening and responding. Four exceptionally talented improvisers so adeptly communicating is a sight to behold.
The sound produced was heavily textured and constantly morphing, dripping-sweat testament to the unbridled zeal with which each member played. Several times Mark Sanders held the audience transfixed by a solo, his attack precise and lively. The intimate pas de deux of the two saxophonists was joyous. From John Edward’s fanatic bow techniques to Paul Dunmall’s expression, spontaneity was clearly at the core of last night’s performance. Yet, not once did experimentation overshadow musicality. The group manifested the best this genre has to offer – an absolute freedom while maintaining impeccable form. Free Jazz was revolutionary in the 1950s and ’60s, and yesterday’s performance proved that the rebel cause is still alive and well. This is music with a long expiry date, extended all the more by talent such as displayed last night.
The audience was rightly mesmerised by the carefully constructed chaos of the performance. Yet, did they understand the gravity of that which they heard? They were privy to electrifying on-stage connection and innovative performance but this was not their greatest privilege. They were also silent participants in an act which challenged a widely believed myth –- the death of Jazz. As the Vortex filled with the potent sounds of Paul Dunmall, John O’Gallagher, John Edwards and Mark Sanders, it was clear that this music was far from dead. Art, and perhaps even history, were being made upon that stage.