Lytton / Wooley + Ikue Mori and Ken Vandermark The Nows (CF 260)
Although this CD is essentially a duo project uniting veteran drummer Lytton of the English improv scene and relative newcomer and trumpet technician extraordinaire Nate Wooley of the NYC scene, it is in part a two-CD set of live trio performances, the first including laptop artist Ikue Mori and the second reedist Ken Vandermark. One set recorded at the Stone in NYC, the second at Chicago’s The Hideout, both in March of 2011.
The creative core of the double-disc offering is Lytton and Wooley, and what a creative core it is. Wooley in particular is a striking musical personality with a percussive and timbral approach to the trumpet that stretches the repertoire of sounds one usually associates with the instrument. Not that he is alone in extending the language of the horn. Many have come before him, including people like Don Cherry, Bill Dixon, Joe McPhee, and Dave Douglas, but what Wooley brings is a more formidable skill than his predecessors in what is usually referred to as extended techniques. With contemporaries like Peter Evans, Wooley is redefining what is possible with the trumpet, which includes all kind of multiphonics, tonguing and buzzing sounds the trumpet is capable of, but which have been left out of the idealized trumpet sound, and included in all this are feats of circular breathing that are coherently and musically integrated.
Lytton, best known for his work in the English free jazz scene since the 1960s, most notably with Evan Parker, brings an articulate percussive foil to Wooley’s conceptions and the two, although more than a generation apart, are a natural match in terms of musical freedom and architectural and textural concerns. Both seem to have an endless flow of creative ideas about creating and manipulating sound and their equally strong personalities here support each other while also standing squarely on their own — along and together, facts amply clear in the opening duo track “Free Will, Free Won’t,” one of three duo tracks on the two CDs. The other tracks feature either Ikue Mori on computer or Ken Vandermark on clarinet, bass clarinet, and tenor or baritone saxophones. The two guests add to the already well-defined duo sound rather than alter it to any great or discernible extent, although Vandermark’s contributions seem at times to prod Wooley into some different, broader or more open sounds and motifs than on the other tracks.