Paul Lytton/Nate Wooley + Ikue Mori and Ken Vandermark – The Nows (CF 260)
The British percussionist Paul Lytton and Oregon-raised, New Jersey-based trumpeter Nate Wooley, some 27 years his junior, have found a remarkable artistic sympathy in each other and have met with some fine successes as a result (check out either of their duo albums: 2007’s Untitled or 2009’s Creak Above 33). What holds them together, perhaps, is a shared fascination for the small sounds that their generally-loud instruments produce.
Such connections make for one of the most rewarding configurations in free improvisation: a duo with a well-articulated language joined by a third voice. That additional player might try to pick up the lingo or work against it, but either way the grounding is there. Lytton and Wooley have already recorded with David Grubbs (2007’s Seven Storey Mountain) and Christian Weber (2009’s Six Feet Under) and appeared on stage with many others. Now, with The Nows, the pair appears on disc with electronicist Ikue Mori and reedman Ken Vandermark.
With any other horn-and-drum duo, Mori might be left clutching at straws. The sounds that emanate from her laptop are usually soft and subtle and can belost against heavier-hitting players. But Lytton and Wooley deal in the macro focus, small sounds given great attention. In this recording, from a March 2011 set at The Stone, Mori sounds great, even something like a common denominator. Her blips work well with Lytton’s quick drum runs and her whooshes mesh nicely with Wooley’s trumpet flutters. At their best, the three sound very much like the inner workings of some unusual machine.
The second disc finds the pair joining forces with saxophonist Ken Vandermark, recorded two weeks later on his home turf at the Hideout in Chicago. It is, unsurprisingly, a louder, ‘jazzier’ set than the one with Mori, but still performed with attention to detail. Vandermark has a clarinet, bass clarinet and tenor and baritone saxophones in tow, so there’s a great diversity of detail as well. Both trios work well, but it’s nice that the first half of each disc is the duo alone. Getting to hear how the duo works before folding a third party in makes the listening all the richer.