Migrations Cristina Pato

Cristina Pato
The New York City Jazz Record

by Stuart Broomer

Cristina Pato

Pipe & Drum
Paul Dunmall/
Mark Sanders (FMR)

by Stuart Broomer

The bagpipe has a brief but noble history in jazz, beginning with Philadelphia saxophonist Rufus Harley, who was inspired to take up the instrument when he saw Scotland’s Black Watch regiment performing during John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession. Harley became a symbol for cross-cultural exploration, finding in the ancient and widespread bagpipe an instrument that spoke to underlying unities. It was the era of John Coltrane’s signature soprano saxophone sound, that keening wail and those bending pitches that would draw jazz and the sound of an Indian shehnai into the same orbit on “My Favorite Things” and “AfroBlue”. The bagpipe, with its drone pipes and continuous sound took the resemblance another step further. While Harley may have been limited by the instrument’s relatively narrow range and limited pitches, his work touched on elemental mysteries. Significantly, Albert Ayler played bagpipes on Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe. These two new recordings of improvising pipers are very different, but they both speak to the adaptability of the instrument.

While the bagpipe is most immediately associated with Scotland, its global tradition includes Galicia in Northern Spain, where it’s called a gaita. Cristina Pato is a Galician piper who has recorded traditional music extensively and has been a member of Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, absorbing a host of international idioms. On Migrations, she also plays fluent jazz piano and sings in styles that range from infectious bossa nova (Jobim’s “Dindi”) to the keening, shouted wail of Galician traditional songs. Her band of accordionist Victor Prieto, bassist Edward Perez and drummer Eric Doob provides engaging support and there are numerous guests adding other colors, including tablas, harp and bouzouki. The music mixes intensity and levity with a charm akin to the Hot Club of France and Pato’s take on Miles Davis and/or Bill Evans’ “Blue in Green” is probably the most technically accomplished piping in a traditional jazz idiom to date.

British Paul Dunmall is a tenor saxophonist of great power who plays in a manner that derives directly from Coltrane and Ayler and he brings all the intensity of energy-school free jazz to his piping. His 2003 release Solo Bagpipes (FMR) was a work of great vision and on Pipe & Drum Dunmall plays in an absolutely fundamental ensemble with the equally distinguished Mark Sanders on drums, the two manifesting a ferocity that speaks of timeless trances and visions and elemental kinships. While Pato at times seems to tame the pipes, Dunmall is interested in setting them free in all their wildness, their sounds braying and magisterial, their trills and split tones multiplying, their air bladder a primordial mechanism for circular breathing. Dunmall’s approach resembles at times Evan Parker’s to the soprano saxophone, but with a narrower range. By the concluding “Supernatural Is Natural”, Dunmall and Sanders match the dense, entrancing wail of the massed winds and percussion of the Master Musicians of Joujouka - powerful stuff indeed.