Montana Strange - BBC Concert Orchestra, Brian Irvine Ensemble & Paul Dunmall

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MONTANA STRANGE by Brian Irvine (pictured)

For symphony orchestra, ensemble and improvising saxophonist in four movements. Performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra, Brian Irvine ensemble and Paul Dunmall (tenor saxophone). Conducted by Robert Zeigler and Brian Irvine.

View the Tenor Saxophone Index library entry for the full programme note and details here.

About 20 or more years ago I went along to a gig that my good friend Brian Carson had organised in Belfast. It was a small attic space in a tiny arts centre called the Old Museum. There was about 30 people there. The band was Paul Rogers (bass), Tony Levin (drums) and Paul Dunmall (saxophone and pipes). The music was incredible. I was completely drawn in to the magic and connection between these three special musicians. Some time later I plucked up the courage to give Paul a call and invite him over to Northern Ireland to play with my own ensemble. Without hesitation he was there and so began some years of a fantastic partnership in which Paul weaved his way freely around my fully written ensemble music. In those early days we used an ingenious light system that Paul's dad made: where a light was attached to a stand which stood beside Paul as he played and was controlled by a foot switch that I operated as I conducted the ensemble: light on - play, light off - stop!. Eventually the light system was no longer required, just a look was enough and eventually: nothing.

At this time I was also involved in creating a lot of orchestral works and we had talked on many occasions about the possibility of combining the extremes of Paul's free improvisation with the detailed rigid compositional world of contemporary orchestral music. The opportunity to came along in the form of the brilliant forward thinking BBC Jazz on 3 and I got to work on what was to be Montana Strange.

When we premiered the piece in Belfast I remember standing on the stage with the entire BBC Concert Orchestra, Robert Zeigler (conductor), my ensemble and Paul and just before it all kicks off Paul leans over to me and says "so where do you want me to play?".. I thought for a moment, before responding: "Anywhere you like big man" .. and then we were off!

As Paul weaved his magic in an around the orchestral landscape I recall one particular moment in the third movement where a period of uninterrupted orchestral sound was severed in half by what could only be described as some sort of sustained guttural, screaming, lustful, wailing from Paul's tenor saxophone: a sound so possessed that the entire horn section of the orchestra immediately turned their heads and looked at Paul in utter disbelief.

Montana Strange for Paul and myself was always about combining two extremes without regard or compromise. Paul's unique musicianship means he has a super natural ability to combine and create a dialogue, an interconnectivity with all sound no matter its origin and in turn create something unique and profoundly beautiful because of that relationship. Its an exciting piece to do, always mutating and surprising and always, always, full to the brim with a deep love and sensation of sound and humanity.
- Brian Irvine

DUBLIN PIECE by Brian Irvine

For orchestra and improviser. Performed by RTE National Symphony Orchestra and Paul Dunmall (soprano saxophone). Conducted by Colman Pearce.