Trumpets and Drums: Live in Ljubljana (CF 282)
Listening to free jazz while driving is relaxing, inspiring, and elevating (at least for us). Usually it is more fun if you play it loud, even if the stereos are not so great (if they are: even better). But this is not the point: the best moments are those when you drive through the city in summertime and you have to stop at traffic lights. When your car windows are open and then one of these young guys with their FIATs or BMWs has to stop next to you, listening to some crappy techno stuff (mostly male drivers) or Katy Perry bullshit. It goes Boom-Boom-Boom-Boom plus hysterical vocals. But then they realize this completely different music which comes from the car next to him or her. They look at you as if you were an escapee from a mental asylum (and that’s basically what we really are and proud to be). It makes it even worse if you give them your nicest smile.
If you want to have a similar experience one of the albums which is perfect for this is “Trumpets and Drums: Live in Ljublana”.
What we have is two trumpets – Nate Wooley and Peter Evans – and two drummers – Jim Black and Paul Lytton. Wooley has a duo with Lytton and one with Evans, Evans has worked with both drummers before. Now the result of this project is not a simple double duo but a real quartet, which means that “Trumpets and Drums” is not the typical super group you might expect, it is an aural sculpture. There’s no showing off of extraordinary techniques (something especially Evans has often been accused of), instead you get a lesson in listening and in exquisite interplay.
Nate Wooley is the one who is interested in weird sounds (he uses all kinds of material to manipulate his trumpet sound) which create a tight knit carpet on which Evans can soar like a helicopter (it sometimes actually sounds like that) with his fantastic technique. Lytton builds up a massive texture of percussion sounds as if it was raining pieces of wood, in combination with Black, who just intersperses drum sounds here and there. The first ten minutes are a real fireworks of smack sounds, extended techniques, and marvelous circular breathing solos and duos, before the band takes a deep breath with Evans and Wooley as a duo presenting a dialogue of snoring animals. Here there is a lot of scratching, creaking, gasping, panting, and fizzling, there is an enormous velocity, like musical high-speed yackety-yak (in a positive way), which raises the track to incredible peaks. At the same time all the musicians never lose humanity and tenderness, as you may listen in the central part of the composition, above a gobbledygook ventriloquism by Wooley that reconnects the chopped rhythmic phrasings, the really tender voice of Evans trumpet driving us through the obstacles.
Very welcome in the whole picture is a sober but meaningful use of electronic in the shape of lengthened low chords streams introducing a classical structure in the finale that takes place amidst trembling chirpings, damped chains and far interferences. When everything seems about to vanish a last, long, suffocating crescendo overwhelms all the possible listening directions. The musicians launch a musical screwball comedy here, throwing sounds, ideas and riffs to and fro before it ends with almost classic beautiful trumpet melodies and similar trills as in the beginning. This is maybe the greatest evidence of the success of such a peculiar instrumental amalgam. They don’t give you any choice, the only paths you can follow in the composition is theirs, no other way round.
“End”, the second track, even tops the whole thing. The first minutes find the musicians almost struggling with each other, Wooley just adding the same monotonous animal-like sound and Evans pacing around like a bee gone mad until Wooley changes his way completely, which is commented by Evans and the drummers with a march as if they were going to war. The tightened dialogue between the two trumpets, sometimes dubbing each other’s riffs, some other through violent juxtaposition, is breathless. Only a very dark electronic riff brings some relief in spite of the trumpets keeping up speed.
The music is so intense, it’s like an overheated pressure cooker which is about to burst.
We have asked ourselves why the other road users are so perplexed. Is it simply that they are not used to such sounds and compositional structures? Or is it that they are scared of the self-determination, the dynamics and the freedom inherent to this music? Are they afraid of expanding their awareness including all the implications that follow (as Joseph Chonto put it in the liner notes to Charles Gayle’s “Touchin’ on Trane”)? Or are they simply not to blame because they can’t immerge from immaturity which has been imposed on them by social structures?
Apart from all these questions it is music absolutely beautiful to listen to, the album is a constant surprise box. Just enjoy.