Tag Archives: Stem

Free Jazz Best of 2012 List (Readers Poll)


This must have been the most boring competition for the HAPPY NEW EARS AWARD we’ve ever had, with the winner in the lead from the first hour to the last, and capturing almost one third of all votes. Eve Risser, Benjamin Duboc and Edward Perraud are the deserved winners with “En Corps”, which already featured on many top-10 of the year lists too. They have indeed given us some novel listening experience. Congratulations to the winners, and to all other contenders for the great music and ear-opening – and mind-opening – musical ideas. Thanks to all voters for their contribution.

CF 249Eve Risser – En Corps (27%)
RED Trio + Nate Wooley – Stem (15%)
Eivind Opsvik – Overseas IV (8%)
Stian Westerhus – The Matriarch (8%)
Tim Berne – Snake Oil (7%)
Thomas Heberer’s Clarino – Cookbook (6%)
Angharad Davies, Tisha Mukarji, Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga – Outwash (5%) Mikolaj Trzaska’s Ircha – Zikaron Lefanaj (5%)
Evan Parker, Okkyung Lee, Peter Evans – The Bleeding Edge (3%)
Pão – Pão (3%)
Evan Parker’s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble: Hasselt (3%)
Levity – Afternoon Delights (2%)
Katherine Young’s Pretty Monsters (1%)
MMM Quartet – Live at the Metz’ Arsenal (0%)
Bobun – Suite Pour Machines À Mèche (0%)

Squid’e Ear review by Matt Schulz

RED Trio + Nate Wooley – STEM (CF 249)
Nate Wooley is the preeminent trumpeter of our generation, perhaps because his playing seems adaptable to any situation. From tightly composed works to the most far out free improvisation, he always has something interesting to say. STEM, his new recording with RED trio (pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro, bassist Hernan Faustino, and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini) was recorded less than a year after their initial meeting and on record they sound inspired and engaging, their chemistry defying their lack of history together.

“Flapping Flight ” opens with spirited trumpet runs that reference the combined vocabulary of the greats while sounding unlike any of them. RED Trio push and pull the music around Wooley’s blowing until it eventually slows into a lulling passage, punctuated with tinkling piano and drum harmonics. The tune continues further into dirge territory with scuttling percussion, while Wooley’s muted tones mesh with bowed bass. He then signals the end with what seems to be a quote of Herbie Hancock’s “Riot” as the group once again congeals into a frenetic unit and slowly breaks down the song structure, ending the piece as it began in fragmented dialogue.

“Phase” begins heavy on the percussive chatter. Bass and drums interact with piano chords suspended in mid air, and underneath, Wooley is barely letting the air though the mouth piece, sounding like the first sputtering of a steam radiator in winter. The pace is picked up, but Wooley stays in the embouchure conscious zone of expression, occasionally letting out a low foghorn or high screech. Wooley’s mouthpiece seems to be every bit as important to him as the bell and valves. This is a man that has spent some time exploring his horn.

“Ellipse” hardly moves at all, instead choosing to ooze out sound events in moody succession. The fourth track, “Weight Slice” is more action-packed with a drums/trumpet duo exchange that brings some truly rambunctious improvising to fruition. Wooley breaths bent multiphonics that seem to grow hair as they lengthen, sounding a bit like Donald Ayler. Finally, “Tides” could be a summation of the previous tracks: a trio+1 of experienced improvisers expertly doing their thing. It’s thoughtful and precise, a controlled anarchy, if you will. This LP is rich on texture, and although RED+Nate Wooley have a studied feel about them, it’s a fresh and exhilarating listen.

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

Clean Feed   Nate Wooley and the RED Trio (pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro, bassist Hernâni Faustino and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini) first met in 2010, literally introducing themselves on stage. In the subsequent two years, their knowledge and mutual admiration have grown to the point that they have become a rugged unit able to touch all the cardinal points of improvisation tinted with jazz undertones. In the liners, Wooley compares the events taking place in an improvisational team as the mirroring of all the virtues and defects typifying the usual pros and cons of everyday’s conjoint living. The balanced eloquence of the action in Stem demonstrates that, when tempered intentness prevails upon the necessity of affirming self-pride, there is no problem whatsoever in creating music which is brilliantly questioning, ruled by dynamic reactiveness and perfectly set to resuscitate the intelligent connotations of modern jazz that too often tend to be forgotten in a whirlwind of chichi poses and unpurposed notes.   Though absolutely nothing sounds calculated, the five tracks show a degree of congruity that, in some instances, might induce someone to define the interplay as “cold”. But we all know that in many occasions sternness is just a facade hiding a heart that, when the right moment comes, beats rather impetuously. Listen to how “Phase” starts from a quietly mounting exchange featuring Ferrandini and Faustino, then gradually escalates to a wholehearted collective flare-up whose effects are in any case kept under control by the quartet’s inherent efficiency, never allowing elements of mayhem to predominate in spite of Wooley’s shrieking tantrums and Pinheiro’s emphatic punctuations and flurries. The piece offers the vision of a natural course characterized by the need, by each participant, of remaining an active part of a lively wholeness, without the egotistic traits frequently associated to the excesses of fraudulent fervency.   If we want to consider aesthetics, there’s no room for unbelievers: the overall vibe is entangling, tactile, but not overwhelming. Again, impartiality seems to win over sanguine volubility. Yet in “Ellipse” the fire of freedom burns blazingly even when everything calms town to EAI-like volumes (there’s a section in which the connection of inside piano and near-ephemeral trumpet is comparable to a dialogue between a slack-string guitar and a muted fax machine). The systematic nonattendance of an orthodox pulse reminds us that we’re dealing with artists who, hopefully, are not going to fall victims of dubious “revolutions” bathed in bundles of banknotes and establishment-regulated festivals.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Red Trio + Nate Wooley – Stem (CF 249)
The Red Trio have made an impact with several excellent albums in the past several years. For this latest they add the forceful presence of trumpeter Nate Wooley in a set they entitle Stem (Clean Feed 249).   Rodrigo Pinheiro, piano, Hernani Faustino, double bass, and Gabriel Ferrandini, drums, aka the Red Trio, have struck me consistently as an avant improvisational unit that has both passion and great smarts. They are deliberate as well as spontaneous; they get a great deal of interplay happening without responding overtly to one another much of the time. Each member goes in a similar direction to realize a particular musical moment in time and the consistency of result is very high.   With the addition of Nate Wooley there is a vibrant fourth color to work off of–and both Nate and the trio are very actively colorful soundmasters. The results are not necessarily denser, but there is more potential sound-figure spontaneity to work off of. And that potential is very much actual in this set.   All four players can flow lines or share a piece of the collective line constructed. Both happen with intelligence and passion, fire and implied endlessness.   I especially like how Rodrigo and Nate, as the front liners, work together, one punctuating the other, both streaming lines together. And then Hernani becomes a third line, Gabriel a fourth, so that everybody is soloing/nobody is soloing in a dynamic give and take.   It’s an inspired set of freedom sounds. Listening should be the response. That was mine. It pays the aesthetic dividend of a statisfying artistic-musical communion of self and disk! So try that out if you can spring for a copy.

JazzWrap review by Stephan Moore

Red Trio – Stem Red Trio (CF 249)
Like the old saying goes, “wine gets better with age,” so too does the fantastic Portuguese group, Red Trio.

A phenomenal yet minimal self-titled debut that features a wide array of improvised occurrences with stellar insights in composition went further with the follow up, Empire. Empire featured British saxophonist, John Butcher as the interpretive foil to the trio’s experimental exploits. This session seemed to awaken a challenging spirit within the band (especially on the title track). Now that inquisitive spirit has collided with the free form agility of one of my recent favourite trumpeters, Nate Wooley for the superb, Stem.

This quartet came together only a few months ago as a live collaboration but you can feel that Red Trio quickly developed a unique chemistry that makes this session even more personal and entertaining than Empire. The outstanding opener, “Flapping Flight” features jagged edges and improvised chords by the trio intersecting with short delicate notes by Wooley that rise and fall with romantic flavour. The piece expands as it moves into it’s middle movements and creates similar exchanges to that shared on the trio’s work with Butcher. Wooley and Pinheiro share a rolling battle of notes towards the end that is both captivating as it is complex.

Pinheiro’s playing is at times very straight while delightful chaos occurs around him. “Ellipse” is one of those moments. Pinheiro’s performance is almost Jarrett-esque but it is punctuated by canon of experimentalism on display by the rest of the group. Ferrandini’s drums put on a quiet Billy Higgins type display. Rhyming when necessary and floating freely when called upon. Wooley goes from a stoic and melodic tone to dark quiet breathy exchanges with the trio almost silent adding a haunting yet organic nature to piece that is revelatory.

“Weight Slice” has a frenzied pace that holds the listener in place while short burst of notes almost coalesce into one pattern but then brilliantly explode in the opposite direction. Wooley has individual dialogues with the trio throughout this piece. “Weight Slice” is probably the best example of the camaraderie this group has developed in such a short amount of time. The quiet almost ethereal departure of “Tides” is remincesent of Red Trio’s debut. A spacious conclusion with slow droning effects and low tones that make you stop and investigate each note.

Stem is the best work to date by Red Trio and the addition of new musicians over the last two outings has only made this group better, inventive and fresh – like aged wine. Stem is one of those albums that will last with you all year long. Highly Recommended.

The New York City Jazz Record review by Clifford Allen

Wooley/Weber/Lytton – Six Feet Under (No Business)
RED Trio + Nate Wooley – Stem (CF 249)
One of the crucial things about this music is that the concept of a band’s instrumentation is, ultimately, less important than who is playing. We think of the format of a piano trio, an organ group, or a piano-less quartet as given, into which one plugs the holes with artists who have (or can have) a good rapport and the music works itself out in that context. Such ideas have defined ‘jazz’ to some degree for generations. But the last few decades have introduced an incredible amount of flexibility both in how ensembles approach the music, as well as the possibilities inherent in each instrument. Two of trumpeter Nate Wooley’s most recent releases are poised to defy any traditional assumptions about ‘trumpet and rhythm’ even if he’s the only horn.

Six Feet Under joins Wooley with a frequent collaborator, English percussionist Paul Lytton, as well as Swiss bassist Christian Weber on a program of five improvisations. As a trumpet and percussion duo, Wooley and Lytton have circumvented any notions of a drum-and-bugle corps through extensive use of electronics, amplification, voice and close mic’ing, to the point that sound sources are indistinguishable. SixFeet Under isn’t that kind of record, though – Lytton’s kit is more or less traditional, albeit played with light, open concentration and controlled metric wrangling. Wooley’s screams, growls, circular breathing and unsettled chuffs are out in full effect, but tressed by Weber’s massive arco on the opening “Pushing up Daisies”. If it is a fracas, it is conscious of the logic behind group motion. “Nickel Eyes” opens with a syrupy cry, the kind not quite heard from Wooley in this way. He’s translated the harrier-ache of Albert Ayler from tenor to trumpet and he pulls it into a dry, laconic swing against precision flits and a meaty pizzicato anchor. Much of “La Grande Mort” is rootedin long, murky tones and ancillary subversion – the latter almost comedic when bright, muted trumpet and scratched drumheads supplant a protracted, guttural pinch. As both a power trio and an exploratory vehicle, Six Feet Under is a brilliantly equilateral recording.

Stem finds Wooley in the company of one of Europe’s most interesting small groups, Portugal’s RED Trio: pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro, bassist Hernani Faustino and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini. Somewhat akin to ARC (Corea/Holland/Altschul) or the Howard Riley Trio, RED subverts the traditional roles of piano, bass and drums to create a continual hum of percussive-melodic activity. Pinheiro uses the full resources of the instrument, muting and plucking the strings while generating a stark, tense environment from obsessively repeated clusters. Toward the end of “Flapping Flight” he creates a steely drone underneath Wooley’s shrieks and sighs, outlined with brush patter and Faustino’s low harmonics. Swiping whistles across some flat object on “Phase”, Wooley mirrors a palimpsest of feedback and piano resonance before crumpling into a distorted whinny, as the trio’s muscularity is positioned front and center. Subversion is part of the RED aesthetic too, Pinheiro matching the trumpeter’s terse, hot monochromes with well-behind-the-beat chords and rhapsodic head-butts. RED are highly economical and well apprised of the Tradition – at least one can hear it in the pianist’s ringing melodic stabs, which somehow occupy a region between forcing a series of phrases and sweetly caressing them. This coy aggressiveness mates well with Wooley’s clear, instantaneous responseand hackle-raising explosions. The foursome are constantly in action even when ostensibly ‘hushed’ -pursed exhalation, bowed cymbals and low rumblearen’t alien to their palette, maddeningly approaching Nuova Consonanza extremes on the closing “Tides”. Each of the five pieces presents a different group axis, often discomfortingly set between the well-marked poles of brash expressionism and coiled reflection.

Le Son du Grisli review by Luc Bouquet

RED Trio – Stem (CF 249)
Mettant en veilleuse les affres souterraines d’antan et bénéficiant de la présence rassurante de Nate Wooley, le RED Trio (Rodrigo Pinheiro, Hernani Faustino, Gabriel Ferrandini) requinque son improvisation de couleurs quelque peu saturantes.

Sans parler de totale déconstruction, l’instabilité et le doute donnent quelques sueurs froides au combo. Ainsi, les suspensions se cristallisant après d’intenses batailles (Ellipse) obligent à ne pas considérer le RED Trio comme une formation aux errements faciles. Visités par l’esprit frappeur (le duo trompette-batterie in Weight Slice), souvent scindés ou désunis mais convoquant parfois quelques vieilles brides de free jazz (Wooley, surpris plus d’une fois en des effleurements dixoniens), nos quatre amis gagnent à se défaire des facilités passées.