Joe Morris/Agustí Fernández/Nate Wooley – From the Discrete to the Particular (Relative Pitch)
Nate Wooley/Peter Evans/Jim Black/Paul Lytton – Trumpets and Drums (Live in Ljubljana) (CF 282)
Nate Wooley Sextet – (Sit In) The Throne of Friendship (CF 280)
Nate Wooley is among a group of distinguished younger trumpeters redefining the sonic possibilities of the instrument. More than that though, he combines both rare invention and rare taste across a stylistic range that stretches from free improvisation to his own version of postbop.
The trio of Wooley, guitarist Joe Morris and pianist Agustí Fernández that appears on From the Discrete to the Particular has its antecedents in Morris’ prior duos with Wooley and Fernández. It’s free improvisation of the first rank, with each of the seven pieces a developed musical dialogue defining its own timbres and shape, whether it’s the pointillist sputters of the opening “Automatos”, the flurries of discrete sounds that firstmark “As Expected” or the oblique harmonic language of “Bilocation” that flowers into an evanescent lyricism created by all three musicians. “Membrane” suggests an early John Cage prepared piano sonata extended to a collective. The longest pieces, “Hieratic” and “Chumsof Chance”, are works of transformation, whether Morris sounding like the interior of a piano on the former and a bowed cello on the latter; Fernández mounting a virtuosic keyboard assault or creating a resonant soundscape or Wooley drawing out pained multiphonics or assembling wild scratching sounds.
Trumpets and Drums (Live in Ljubljana) is a dialogue between the two fundamental sonic components of the title. If there’s a martial tradition to trumpet and drum music there’s also a mystical one, as with Joshua and the battle of Jericho, but stronger still in the Tibetan Buddhist ritual music that combines long bass trumpets with metal and skin percussion. The quartet is built on several developed affinities: Wooley has long-running duos with both fellow trumpeter Peter Evans and drummer Paul Lytton; Evans has played with Lytton as a guest with the Parker-Guy-Lytton trio and Jim Black has played drums in Evans’ quartet. The performance is divided into two long segments, entitled “Beginning” and “End” and within those parameters there are moments of near silence, whispered trumpet tones and air through horns, gentle percussive rattlings, eerie scrapes and rustlings that demand rapt attention. Quavering electronics might arise from Wooley’s amplifier or from Black’s expanded kit. Elsewhere the reare moments of incendiary power, elemental music focused on mysteries of intensity and pitch.
The Nate Wooley Sextet is a variation on the Quintet that recorded 2010’s (Put Your) Hands Together. A forum for Wooley’s compositions, (Sit In) The Throne of Friendship retains bass clarinetist/baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton, vibraphonist Matt Moran and drummer Harris Eisenstadt while bassist Eivind Opsvik either alternates with newly arrived tuba player Dan Peck or they appear together. The style suggests the Blue Note ‘free’ school and the simultaneous presence of vibraphone and bass clarinet emphasizes the Eric Dolphy influence (“Make Your Friend Feel Loved” seems to reference Dolphy’s “G.W.”). This is exploratory, varied music, alive with passion and dialogue. It’s also exuberant, whether Sinton shouting through his baritone or Peck crafting an unaccompanied introduction. While Wooley is as ‘athome’ with free improvisation as any musician, the forms here emphasize the expressiveness of his lines: on the mournful “My Story, My Story” he combines variations of pitch and inflection to achieve an emotional depth equal to that of Miles Davis or Don Cherry, rare terrain for any trumpeter.