Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Dunmall, Paul

Dunmall, Paul, saxophones, clarinets, bagpipes, miscellaneous wind instruments; b. Welling, Kent, UK, 6 May 1953. He was a working class lad from Welling who left school at 15 and spent two years repairing instruments at Bill Lewington's shop in Shaftesbury Avenue, London. He turned professional at 17 and, following two years touring Europe with a progressive rock band (Marsupilami), joined the Divine Light Mission, a spiritual movement led by Guru Maharaj Ji and moved from London to an ashram in America. He told Isham (1997), "I moved to an ashram full of musicians - a music ashram - but it was still spiritual practice. That gave me a spiritual understanding through meditation, Coltrane's music, and all the rest of it, led me to that, and that's been a fundament in my life ever since - that I can actually sit down and meditate and forget my body. I realize how important meditation is in my life... but I don't do it so much these days." During the three years he lived in America, Dunmall played with Alice Coltrane (in a big band with the Divine Light Mission) and toured for twelve months with Johnny 'Guitar' Watson.

Back in England, he played with Danny Thompson and John Stevens as well as folk musicians Kevin Dempsey, Martin Jenkins and Polly Bolton and then, in 1979 he became a founder member of Spirit Level (Tim Richards, piano; Paul Anstey, bass; Tony Orrell, drums), staying with the group until 1989. During his time with Spirit Level, Dunmall joined the two-tenor front line group Tenor Tonic with Alan Skidmore (1985), played and broadcast with Dave Alexander and Tony Moore in the DAM trio (1986) and formed the Paul Dunmall Quartet with Alex Maguire, Tony Moore and Steve Noble (1986).

In 1987 Paul Dunmall joined the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, being a constant member and appearing on all their recorded output from that date onward. The following year the improvising collective quartet Mujician was formed by Keith Tippett, Dunmall, Paul Rogers and Tony Levin and has continued to be a regular performing, touring and recording group, sometimes augmented by other musicians. Dunmall has also played in a trio with Keith and Julie Tippetts and in Keith Tippett's big band Tapestry. Two other duos have also sprung out of Mujician: Dunmall with Tony Levin (two CD releases) and Dunmall in folk-influenced outings with Paul Rogers. Another regular playing partner throughout this period and up until the present includes Elton Dean.

In 1995, two trios were formed, the first with Oren Marshall, tuba and Steve Noble, percussion, the second with John Adams, guitar and Mark Sanders, percussion, these sometimes coming together as a quintet. More recently, Dunmall has played in another reeds/guitar/drums trio with Philip Gibbs and Tony Marsh and there appears to be regular crossover between all these players. The Paul Dunmall Octet was founded in 1997.

In 2000, Paul Dunmall started the CD-R-only DUNS Limited edition label featuring many of his regular playing companions.

Johnny 'Guitar' Watson: Ain't that a bitch (1976); Spirit Level: Mice in the wallet (1982), Proud owners (1984), Killer bunnies (1986), Soliloquy (1986), Swiss Radio tapes (1989), Great spirit: best of Spirit Level (1979-1999); Andy Shepherd: A (1987); Whatever next, Antilles. Danny Thompson: Whatever next (1989); Elton Dean: Two's and three's (1987/88); London Jazz Composers Orchestra: Zurich concerts (1987/1988), Harmos (1989), Double trouble (1989); Elton Dean's Unlimited Saxophone Company (1989); Folks (1989/1993); Elemental, Antilles. Danny Thompson: Elemental (1990); The saxophone phenomenon (1990); Mujician: The journey (1990); Mujician/The Georgian Ensemble: The Bristol concert (1991); Live in London (1992); Polly Bolton: View across the bay (1993); London Jazz Composers Orchestra: Portraits (1993); Quartet, Sextet and Trio (1993); Birmingham concert (1993); Spiritual empathy (1993-1994); Mujician: Poem about the hero (1994); The Fairclough Group: Shepherd wheel (1995); British Saxophone Quartet: Early October (1995); Mujician: Birdman (1995); London Jazz Composers Orchestra: Three pieces for orchestra (1995), Double trouble two (1995); Long meadow (1995); Elton Dean Qunitet: Silent knowledge (1995); If Dubois only knew (1995); Mujician + Roswell Rudd + Elton Dean: Bladik (1996); Essential expressions (1996); Desire and liberation (1996); John Law: Extremely Quartet (1996); Ghostly thoughts (1996); Colours fulfilled (1997); Zap II (1997); Bebop stardust (1997); Paul Rogers Quartet: Time of brightness (1997); Richard Thompson: Industry (1997); Totally fried up (1998); Solo bagpipes (1999); Utoma Trio (1999); Live at 'The Subtone' (1999); Hit and run (1999); Brian Irvine: Bersudsky's machines (1999); Master musicians of MU (1999-2000); Elton Dean: QED (2000); Out from the cage (2000); It escapes me (2000); Zap III (2000); Onosante (2000); EastWestNorthSouth (2000); The Great divide (2000); I You (2001); Manjah (2001); Alien art (2001); Something normal (2001); Gwinks (2001); Solo bagpipes II (2001); Ja ja spoon (2001); Live at the Klinker (2001); Zooplongoma (2001); Spacetime (2001); Kunikazu (2001); Simple skeletons (2001); Dark clouds gathering (2001); All sorts of rituals (2001); The vision (2002); The State of Moksha (2002); Hour glass (2002); Bread & wine (2002); Live at the Quaker Centre (2002); No agents of evil (2002)

Watson, Philip (1989), Level crossings, The Wire, no. 64, (June), pp. 16-18. Based around the breaking-up of the group Spirit Level after 10 years, includes some information about Dunmall's introduction to the music and his influences.
Isham, Andy (1997), Emphasising with the spiritual. Avant, no. 2, (Summer), pp. 32-33.

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