Thursday, March 31, 2011

a sort of non-call to action

The following is just a bit of personal reflection.

After a month on the road, and finally getting over that little bit of euphoria of being home and enjoying that certain something of New York, I felt that too familiar feeling of annoyance as I rode the train to work today. For some reason it dawned on me (finally) that my misanthropy doesn't come from the travelers or the city or it's smell or dirtiness or anything like that. I actually really love New York and (for the most part) New Yorkers, but what tends to rankle me is the general lack of empathy of people on the street and on subways. It's not a person cutting me off on the street, or taking two seats on the train that makes me angry, it's the feeling of being invisible, that the other person couldn't even waste the microsecond to acknowledge my existence and the fact that I am also trying to get to work.

This got me thinking a lot about how my own ability to put myself in someone else's place has diminished over the years, and especially my relationship to, not only New York, but specifically the organizations and people here who make my existence (musically speaking) possible. I've gotten a lot of emails and had a lot of conversations over the years about musicians banding together and making sure we get what's owed to us and to not fight amongst ourselves, but to unite against a common enemy (either the public or clubs or both). I have no problem with this idea in theory. I think people should be paid better for the amount of work and time they put into developing a craft like playing music, not to mention the amount of ourselves that we put into developing something unique to present to the public. However, I do find, for myself, that this creates the classic us versus them scenario. Sometimes that necessary, but most of the time it creates tension and drama between musicians and audience/promoters out of the ether.

I spend more time thinking about where my food comes from and how I can support local organic farmers than how I can help local arts organizations, musicians, record stores, performance venues, and other musicians. That makes me sad. I have never said thank you to Michael Attias for his years of making Barbes a special place for jazz, not a real, sincere thank you....same thing with all the work Josh Sinton has done for DSMC, or David Leibowitz for somehow putting together a full season of New York Repertory Orchestra concerts for me to enjoy using all volunteer effort. I've never dropped a line to Bruce and Manny at Downtown, or Chris McIntyre of TILT, or all the volunteers at the Stone or Issue Project Room who not only let me put on whatever insane stunt I am thinking of at the moment, but continually present challenging music....what about Joce at Zebulon....I've had my ups and downs at that place, but have I ever really thought about the amount of work he must go through to put on that much music every night? Yeah, okay, they make money from it too, but I guess I don't really feel like I've ever been exploited by it. I'm not being paraded around in a cage like a trained monkey so that someone else can reap the financial benefits. If anything, those places probably lose money when I'm there, and yet they still give me gigs.

There are so many ways that I think someone can deal with this, if they choose to, (and I'm not advocating anything here, just thinking out loud). I'm an introvert, I don't go out. So be it. That's me. But, I can not have that second beer at dinner and give some money to NYRO or Issue Project Room at their next show, or take time to sincerely thank Kevin Reilly for all the work he does volunteering for the Stone and just generally being in the audience as much as he is....or how about Scott Friedlander and Peter Gannushkin....or Patricia Parker....or....or....God forbid, if I love a friend's (or non-friend's) new recording, telling them....I feel like it is a chance to build a community in a way that doesn't have to be about us versus them, doesn't have to be war, war, war, but about dialogue and being honest with the folks around you....taking the time to think about what amount of work a promoter in a small town must have had to go through to get your band there and being polite and open to a hang afterward, or coming out of the dressing room after the show to talk to that guy that drove up from DC to see you....these are things I haven't done in the past and I truly regret it....time and energy wasted on nothing.

In the meantime, here's some shows....

Friday April 1
Chuck Bettis/Jeremiah Cymerman/Nate Wooley
interpreting Chuck's graphic scores
Douglass Street Music Collective
295 Douglass Street
Brooklyn, NY
8 pm

Saturday April 2
TILT Brass record release and benefit!
a whole mess of people (including Russ Johnson, Curtis Hasselbring, John King....I told you it was a whole mess of people!)
Invisible Dog Art Center
51 Bergen Street
Brooklyn, NY
7-10 pm
I'll be performing a set as a double duo (on top of my duties as a TILTster)
Peter Evans/Nate Wooley duo meets Phantom Orchard (Zeena Parkins/Ikue Mori)
Also, there will be copies of the TILT Vol. 1 CD with a work of mine for brass and tape which TILT killed

Sunday April 3
Lawrence Casserley/Adam Linson/Hans Tammen/Dafna Naphtali/Nate Wooley
7 pm
596 Broadway #602
I have to stop here and say this is a really rare chance to see one of the best live processing electronicists around in Lawrence Casserley, who doesn't get over from England very often, and in such good company with Hans, Adam, and Dafna...should be great

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

(Put Your) Hands Together...Why I Did It

Because of a fluke, the liner notes to the Clean Feed Release (Put Your) Hands Together didn't get printed in the jacket of the record. I revisited them recently and thought maybe they would mean something to someone and would possible explain why I made this record and what it is about for me. I'm a firm believer in letting people in when you can and so here are the notes. I hope they find a place in the way that you listen to the record.

The easiest thing to do, and maybe the most self-satisfying, would be to somehow think that your creative self came out of a vacuum. That, given the sheer weight of your genius, there was no other human possibility besides the creation of a musical language or artistic aesthetic. However, I think it's very clear what the reality of that is. Whether we choose to embrace or confront our formative past is completely up to the individual. As a musician, and especially as a composer, I've done both to greater or lesser degrees of success, but this record is about embracing and giving thanks, and it's in that spirit that I present it to you now.

Hands Together is a project I started in 2008 to write music for jazz quintet, something I hadn't been a part of for several years. My grandmother had just passed away, which left a hole in my life that I was trying to figure out how to deal with. The first piece I put together for the group was the piece that comes near the end of the record called Hazel. It was after finishing that arrangement that I started thinking about how much I owed to not only her, but to a number of women in my life. Although I'm disappointed by how misused this phrase has become, I was truly a child that was raised by a village of women....canasta playing, ice cream making, hardcore Dakota depression-era girls, proud Swedes, and Montana wildwomen. The amount of love, support and knowledge I've gotten over the years from the people behind the names on the back of this disc is only poorly paid back through tribute on a recording, but it is a start.

Erna, Ethyl, Cecilia, Pearl, and Hazel are all sisters. The infamous “Albertson Girls”. I spent a great part of my youth with them in one way or another, mostly staying with my grandmother and Cecilia who lived together in Northeast Portland for many years, trips to Ethyl's farm in Hillsboro, family get togethers for birthdays and Christmas at Pearl's in Vancouver, Washington, and to visit Erna and Bill (a great uncle) who lived only blocks away. From the wild Albertson girls I learned the values of being polite, never failing to practice empathy, to always be a sneaky card player, and the love of work for work's sake. All the Albertson Girls are gone now, but their memory has imbued certain parts of the Pacific Northwest with a special kind of mysticism for me.....a sense of place that provides me with a desire to develop my strength of character and a stronger connection to the people around me. Through them, I knew wthat magic sense of American transcendentalism long before discovering Emerson or Thoreau.

Elsa is my mother. She claims to not be musical but no one is fooled. She has given me the strength to keep working on what I believe in, regardless of any current success or failure. She is one of the hardest working people I've ever met, but she taught me physical and spiritual self-preservation as well. She taught me to be proud of my heritage, of my family, of the place where I am from...Clatskanie, Oregon....and of myself.

Shanda Lea is my wife. She taught me to have the confidence to do things that had a 90% chance of failing because I really believed in the other 10%. She has shown me what it is to make a happy life for yourself before and above all else. She has straightened my priorities and keeps me healthy. I have never been so goofy nor have I laughed so much about stupid things with another human being in my life and I can't imagine a second of true joy without her being a part of it.

All of these things just scratch the surface of what these women mean to me. They are the sort of things that you can say on the inside of a record cover and maintain that all important sense of machismo jazz musician. There is so much more, of course, but they know what I'm driving at, probably better than I do.

Two final words and then you are free to (finally) enjoy this disc:

First, this record is dedicated as much to my father, Dee Wooley, as it is to the women whose names grace the back cover. I would not be a musician if were not for him, which means I would be an absolutely miserable human being, and I don't think we need any more of those roaming about.

Secondly, the four gentlemen on this recording that have consistently put up with my madness and played these tunes over and over until it made them crazy have to be recognized. I work with all of them in different situations and not only do I think they number among the best improvisers in the world, I consider all of them very close friends. Not everyone knows what it is like to work with people you deeply love. I feel very lucky.

Nate Wooley-December 2010

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Doug Detrick Interview!

Feeling very lucky to have been able to be one of the interview subjects for trumpeter and composer Douglas Detrick's series about contemporary trumpet.

His past interviewees include two of my favorites: Jeff Kaiser and the great Brian McWhorter.