Saturday, May 22, 2010 from Killed in Cars
Also, the quintet will be playing tonight, May 24th at Douglass Street Music Collective.....2 sets, good times....starts at 8 pm on the nose! See you there!
For such a young trumpeter, Nate Wooley has performed and recorded with a healthy range of challenging experimental artists, from Wolf Eyes to John Zorn to Akron/Family. The first time I saw him perform was with a trio consisting of C. Spencer Yeh and Chris Corsano, and the last time was with Trevor Dunn’s PROOFReaders (with Darius Jones and Ryan Sawyer) who were presenting selected works by Ornette Coleman for Ars Nova Workshop's Composer Portrait Series. Both were very different but immensely rewarding music experiences that demonstrated the full force and diversity of Wooley’s abilities as a player. With the first ensemble, Wooley did not produce a traditional note or scale all evening, instead emphasizing the instrument’s hidden potential for emitting whispers, heavy ghost breaths, industrial screams, and deep, earth shattering, low-end booms. With the second, Wooley nailed Coleman’s complicated trumpet phrases, excellently representing Coleman’s ability to create pieces that simultaneously reinforce and push beyond the traditional jazz idiom.
On Creek Above 33, both of these aspects of Wooley’s playing are united. This is the second time that Wooley has recorded as a duo with percussionist and electronicist Paul Lytton, the first being a 2008 limited edition LP on Brokenresearch. The two have performed together on many occasions, however, including in trio form along with David Grubbs at 2007’s Festival of New Trumpet Music, where Wooley debuted a composition that was recorded and released last year titled The Seven Storey Mountain (read my Tiny Mix Tapes review of the album here). Lytton is a veteran in experimental circles, working with Evan Parker for many years, and more recently with Ken Vandermark’s various Territory Band large ensembles, that include Paal Nilssen-Love, Kevin Drumm, Dave Rempis, Kent Kessler, and many others. The creative partnership between Lytton and Wooley has no doubt been a beneficial one, as Wooley confesses in the liner notes for this release that Lytton led him to completely re-evaluate his approach to making music. The harbinger of this transition was a “mind map” created by Lytton – which appears here as the cover art – in which he attempted to visualize both of their intertwining and agonistic trajectories as artists within jazz and improvised music continuums. The sonic result of this radical rethinking is Creek Above 33.
Lytton’s screeching friction opens the album with Wooley’s amplified horn pushing out rapid, reverb-drenched blasts. “The Mbala Effect” is a spatial delight as Lytton produces poly-textural percussive splatters that enter from near and far. Wooley’s approach to the horn is reminiscent of Bill Dixon’s playing on 2009’s fantastic Tapestries For Small Orchestra, though his inclusion of more breathy, volcanic notes and moans is significantly more violent and disruptive. The piece gets truly terrifying around the 8 minute mark: it’s as if Lytton is cranking up a jackhammer, or commanding a demolition squad, rather than working behind a drum kit. Meanwhile, a possessed Wooley resurrects a Takashi Miike-esque demon-growl with his horn. Lytton has been experimenting with electronics for many years, as well as homemade instruments like the Lyttonophone and Dopplerphone, which were both used in the Evan Parker Trio. However, given Lytton’s textural and friction-centric approach to percussion, as well as the multiple instruments that his infamously massive kit contains, it’s difficult to tell what sounds are the result of electronics and what are not.
Lytton shines on “The Gentle Sturgeon,” creating a chaotic array of mysterious scrapes and bangs while Wooley’s breath-play drones and screams above the myriad layers. Half-way through the track the demolition squad returns, but this time more lunar (or, perhaps given the song-title, deep sea) drops of electro-ping and tension follow. Whatever revelation Wooley and Lytton sparked in one another from their pre-recording ruminations on their artistic pasts and futures worked. Creek Above 33 is a fantastic journey through the music histories of both artists and the reference nodes span across the diverse, but overlapping, traditions of experimental musics and jazz (perhaps most evident in Wooley’s deconstructed bop tendencies on “Filtering The Fogweed”). This is an excellent display of both artists’ perpetual development. Lytton continues to be pushing music further forward, as he has been for over 40 years, and Wooley’s approach to his instrument somehow gets even more perplexing and engaging.