Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dusted Review

Marc Medwin reviewed "Throw Down Your Hammer" in Dusted Magazine today. A beautiful, well thought out review, and not just because he likes the record! I especially love the shout outs to Jack Wright (who really should get more!) and Tony Fruscella who has been on my "favoritepeopletostridetheplanet" list since Axel Dorner hipped me to him 3 or 4 years ago.
Thanks Marc!

In these days of post-everything mixtures of allusion and accidental reference, a real surprise is always welcome. The opening gesture on Throw Down Your Hammer and Sing affords such a moment. It’s a long, multi-registral downward sweep from trumpeter Nate Wooley, and it ushers in five strong group improvisations that blend experience with vitality and a refreshing sense of discovery.
The instrumentation itself is novel, as Wooley is joined by cellist/electronics wizard Fred Londberg-Holm and bassist Jason Roebke. Reference is certainly one component of the trio’s shtick, as can be heard in the long-toned wavering gravel of “Sans Aluminumius,” where AMM’s innovative 1960s work certainly informs each ghost-tone and half-filled space. Here, the group sounds bigger than it is, thanks to tasteful electronics and strident but introspective drone. Yet, acoustic passages have an almost musique concrete feel to them, as can be heard in “Southern Ends of the Earth,” where (I’d assume) non-existent jump-cut edits are effected purposely and dynamic control affords the illusion of sounds emerging backward.
All that being said, sound and its referential manipulation is only one area in which these three improvisers excel. Pitch is handled throughout with delicacy and extreme care. Londberg-Holm and Wooley engage in gorgeously rapt multi-toned stillness in “Southern Ends,” as crunchy dissonances take on a raw beauty. In these moments, Roebke often provides tiny gestures of rhythmic intrigue, bowing brief harmonics, sometimes in an altogether different register, filling the sound almost to a quiet breaking point
One of the most riveting aspects of the date is the amount of space and near-silence throughout. The opening minutes of “St. Mary” exemplify the aesthetic with clarity, taking place largely in higher registers but rarely rising above piano. On one level, such timbral control should be expected, given Wooley’s apprenticeship with master musician Jack Wright some years back, but the sheer range of timbre, dynamic contrast and pitch variation these musicians pack into every moment is rare indeed. “Anywhere, Anyplace At All” sums up the trio’s accomplishments, combining hugely diverse pitched material with an equally exploratory sonic palette, all replete with space in which to reflect on each event.
A word or two is in order about Woolley’s approach to his instrument. While the spatial innovations of Bill Dixon and Wadada Leo Smith are certainly referenced, the humor of Lester Bowie is also in evidence, and I even hear the chronologically disparate but equally luscious tones of Tony Friscella and Arve Henrikson on occasion. An extraordinary listen.
By Marc Medwin

Monday, March 23, 2009

More Reviews! and Crackleknob!

Here are a couple more reviews that have come in since "Throw Down Your Hammer and Sing" was released last week (3/17). Please forgive my somewhat scary translation from jazzareadores.blogspot, but I think you will get the idea.

They (Wooley/Lonberg-Holm/Roebke) produce improvised music as we know it from musicians who come from the avant garde section of jazz. Technically highly skilled, all with a rich musical vocabulary. Also they make use of many extended techniques, which is very common for the younger generations of (not only) jazzmusicians. And, also they depart from many jazz habits, moving towards modern chambermusic. There is a high level of concentration and communication, demonstrated by the great interplay between the three. The recording of this session is very freshly done, and makes listening to this one a very physical and pleasant experience. (DM)-Vital Weekly Issue 670

Throw Down Your Hammer And Sing, [is a] trio formed by the trumpeter Nate Wooley, bass by Jason Roebke and the cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, [from] Porter Records. To listeners [softened] by prolonged exposure to the jazz canon, …[they will say it is weird] But one thing is certain: Nate Wooley’s risk-taking continues to land him outside the comfort of tracks previously demarcated, and [he] has in Lonberg-Holm and Roebke the necessary counterpoint to making this work in the beautiful strangeness of their setting. That is just starting, as a handful of passes later, he outlines the definition and all the content is articulated with grace and flexibility. Like many of the best discs, Throw Down Your Hammer And Sing (nice title, in addition) does not ask for immediate membership, but requires patient and careful attention to many details - the simplest way to gain intimacy with the extraordinary sounds of heterodoxy.

-Eduardo Chagas Jazz Arreadores Blogspot (from the translation)

And maybe not the most glowing review, but beautiful for its honesty and spirit of critical thinking....

Two observations :1. In his book, "This Is Your Brain On Music", psychologist Daniel Levitin writes that sufficient exposure to repeated listens to the same music will familiarize you with the sounds and make you appreciate what you hear, regardless of what your initial reaction is to the music.2. Sometime in the previous century, I forced myself to like free jazz (as a punishment to myself after I bought an LP which I wrongly assumed I would like), and I then realized how rich, deep and fresh the music sounded even after dozens and dozens of times. So first impressions can be very wrong.Add to this that I admire trumpetist Nate Wooley, bassist Jason Roebke and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, who just released this CD with the great title "Throw Down Your Hammer And Sing".My point is this: I have just downloaded this CD from eMusic. It is very avant-garde, with sounds that are mostly not recognizable as coming from the instruments they play, and that sometimes ressemble organic, almost natural sounds, both in their creation as in their interaction, but sometimes also very industrial, but then in the artisanal way, like wood being sawn, sometimes like cars honking in traffic jams. But as Wooley writes on his blog, it is also very "intimate and human". I have listened to this album four times now. I admire these three musicians too much to discard this music as a waste of time. I will listen to it. I will listen to it many, many times, and let you know what I think of it later, much later.Maybe I should add one thing. I once went to a presentation by a modern classical composer, who made horrible music, but who went so far as to explain his music. The whole audience stayed, and listened to his proud explanation of his music. I could tell everyone was bored, slightly horrified, and wanting to escape asap, yet too polite to run away to safer places. I can imagine this music may generate the same feeling.But I will listen to it till I come to appreciate it, if I ever can. If yes, then Levitin is right, and I am richer with experience. If not, then Levitin is proven wrong, and I am still richer with experience.I want to like this music.

Stef from

I'm working on tour dates for October. So far October 23rd and 25th seem together for the East Coast, so I'll keep you informed on this trio as things fall into place.

Also, hold on to your hats! Crackleknob will finally appear around the middle of April. I just heard from the head of HatHut Records that the finished product should be back from the plant on March 29th, so after a bit of shipping, that means we should have them here by April 15th or so.

For those of you not in the know, Crackleknob is a long-suffering trio featuring myself, Mary Halvorson on guitar and Reuben Radding on bass. The record is really truly stunning and warm and cuddly and fierce and cranky. I love it and am excited that it will be out soon and the trio can play live a little more often! More news to come!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Looks like the interview for All About Jazz California came out this month. God bless 'em. Ollie is a good guy and did a very nice interview. Transcribed the thing off of tape afterward, and well, I think I mumble a little, because some of it is just a little off, but what the hell, it mostly came through I think....basics: trio record, buy it....the internet is good.....Porter Records is an awesome label.....I have hero worship problems. Oh, and before you write me a nasty email, I DO know that Paul Lytton is not a bassist.

P.S. "Throw Down Your Hammer and Sing" dropped yesterday, although I did see a display for it at Other Music in Manhattan a couple of weeks ago (those dirty birds!), so buy a copy or nine. Please do it from Porter if you can! I don't have a ton of copies and if you can support Luke, it is a good thing.

I've got a version of the article if you are so inclined. Just drop me a line and I'll .pdf that mug for you.