Paul Dunmall / Phillip Gibbs / Alison Blunt / Neil Metcalfe / Hannah Marshall – I Look At You


Is it still possible to produce challenging music that is also sociable to a listener’s quintessence? A positive answer to this question is provided by I Look At You, a meeting recorded in the torrid July of 2015, incorporating five famously accomplished British improvisers led by multi-reedist Paul Dunmall. The quintet’s combined curricula would indeed need a small book; the amalgamation of skill and imaginative acumen in this context was (unsurprisingly) consequential. In 54 minutes — divided in four tracks — we are presented with mildly dissonant germinations of sax/clarinet, guitar, violin, cello and flute. The degree of complexity may be high, yet the collective’s consciousness represents a warranty against any form of sterile virtuosity. This record — requiring a number of spins before the actual magic starts spreading — offers chances for a genuine fine-tuning of individual perception.

An improvising unit — as technically proficient as it might be — will result in tiresomeness if the participants are not entirely focused and dedicated. Mental occlusion is inevitable when the simultaneousness of varying levels of egotism defines a listening session. On the contrary, these instrumentalists do their best to enhance the “light of comprehension”. Either in a totality or in temporary groupings, the timbral correlations reflect the “silent wink” of a particular moment: in other words, the confident composure outlining a communal acoustic pact rooted in dynamic justness. In the resulting mix each instrument’s nature appears unambiguous, which is essential for the correct exemplification of an honest intent. Single voices are distinguishable, even followed. But the intellectual exigencies will reveal their futility as one flutters like a wren across the contrapuntal and textural diversifications, perhaps thinking of joining the musicians in an implicit dance.