The number of creative and free improv musicians who really have good promotion of their music is limited. Take Nate Wooley for instance, without a doubt one of the best trumpeters around, about whom information on his discography or performances is extremely hard to find. You can check Allmusic and you will find no information, just three albums, labeled as "prog rock", or Artistdirect mentions just one album with no information.Wooley had a website that advertises three albums, without any new information for the last six years! He now has a blog with very fragmented and infrequent information, to say the least.
Maybe that's a good sign. It shows he's busy working on his music rather than promoting himself, rightly thinking that his music is his best ambassador. But for fans like myself it makes it difficult to find what is available, because once you like his music, you want to hear more of it. Wooley has not only incredible trumpet technique and background (he was a student of Ron Miles), he is also very creative and audacious, while being a great team player too. With those qualities, it is no surprise that he is widely asked to perform and record. His recent output is nothing but prolific. Hence the three succinct reviews below, plus what I think is his most relevant discography, ranging from his most straight-forward first album to his very adventurous music with Mêlée.
Daniel Levin Quartet - Organic Modernism (Clean Feed, 2010) ****½
In my previous review of the band's "Live At Roulette", I wrote " The music flows organically, growing as it moves along, with instruments coming and going, like birds or bees passing by, coming and going, yet all taking part in the same unpredictable yet not unfamiliar scenery. Despite the apparent freedom, it all sounds very focused and coherent and it was possibly discussed before playing, or maybe not, and these four stellar musicians are just so good and so used to playing together, that this symbiosis of fragile and raw sounds might have been created spontaneously".
I am not quite sure how to say it differently for this album : the music is moving without being sentimental. It has nothing of traditional music, yet it is drenched in familiar sounds that are organised differently, not around structure but around each other, growing organically, with subtle pulse. It can be sweet and bluesy ("My Kind Of Poetry", "Old School"), it can also be adventurous and full of expressive outbursts ("Zero Gravity", "Expert Set") ... and excellent throughout.
The band is Daniel Levin on cello, Nate Wooley on trumpet, Matt Moran on vibes and Peter Bitenc on bass.
Listen and download from eMusic.
Buy from Instantjazz.
Nate Wooley Quintet- (Put Your) Hands Together (Clean Feed, 2011) ****
For the first time in many years, Nate Wooley releases an album with composed music, with an actual band, and with music that is more accessible than any of the records made under his leadership. The band is Josh Stinton on bass clarinet, Matt Moran on vibes, Eivind Opsvik on bass and Harris Eisenstadt on drums .... indeed the musicians who play regularly together in each other's bands and with equal success.
In stark contrast of some of his previous albums, Wooley's trumpet tone is voiced, deeply sensitive but within the same phrase he can switch it into screeching whispers. The compositions integrate jazz history, but then in a reverend and playful way, gently giving new dynamics and dimensions to the familiar forms, lifting them up, dusting them off, refreshing them with new power and creative angles.
The end result is a carefully crafted, fun album, with moments of playfulness ("Elsa"), deep sentiments ("Hazel"), compositional complexity ("Ethyl") or all in one ("Hands Together"). The most beautiful piece is "Shanda Lea" (Wooley's wife?), opening the album with solo trumpet, repeated halfway the record in duet with Stinton, then again as solo trumpet to end the album. On tracks like "Erna" you can hear the warm voice of Ron Miles seep through, but unlike Miles, Wooley adds some odd raw edges and in doing so also more depth in the delivery.
In short, a heart-warming and inventive album, show-casing a fantastic musician and an artist in full development. No need to praise the rest of the band: you know them already: they're among the best you can get these days, and to Wooley's credit, he leaves them lots of space.
Listen and download from iTunes.
Buy from Instantjazz.
Pete Robbins Unnamed Quartet - Live In Brooklyn (Not Two, 2011) ****
It is sometimes amazing how musicians can speak different "languages". Pete Robbins’ “siLENT Z Live”was a nice album, modern with some rock influences and lots of creative little angles - especially by Tyshawn Sorey on drums - yet somehow still constrained to predictable forms.
With his "Unnamed Quartet", Robbins goes a lot further. And so does the band, with Pete Robbins on alto sax, Daniel Levin on cello, Nate Wooley on trumpet and Jeff Davis on drums. If music can be free, this is it! It can be slow and deep, raucous and intense, angular and raw, unpredictable and expressive, with the four musicians listening quite well to each other, leaving space yet moving in the same direction. This is truly my kind of music, lacking polish, varnish and the only sophistication is to be found in the skills of the musicians to express themselves. A really great and welcome step forward for Robbins. And a fantastic album to hear Wooley, Levin and Davis in a completely free environment. Great stuff!
The three albums are quite different in nature : from organic open textures, over playing with tradition and sentiments to full free improvisation, and all three are easy to recommend, showing not only the breadth of Nate Wooley's playing but also the delight of musicians creating new sounds, sculpting their own musical space, full of character and vision. In the end, choosing one over the other is just a very subjective matter.
To come back to my introduction : there is nothing to be found about these bands on Youtube either, yes, some limited and often low quality material about one or the other musician, but nothing of real value. A pity.
Buy from Instantjazz.
Discography of Nate Wooley as leader and co-leader
Sangha Trio - Frantically, Frantically Being At Peace (Slippery Slope, 1997)
Nate Wooley - Run, She Whispered (self-released, 2002)
Blue Collar - ___ Is An Apparition (Rossbin, 2004)
Blue Collar - Lovely Hazel (Public Eyesore, 2005)
Nate Wooley - Wrong Shape To Be A Story Teller (Creative Sources, 2005)
Matt Hannafin, Brian Moran, Nate Wooley This Machine Kills Fascists (Sachimay, 2005)
Mêlée - Newest Ruins (Brokenresearch, 2006)
Mêlée - Pax Spray (American Tapes, 2007)
Mêlée - Violent Forms Of Laughter Pt. 1 (Meudiademorte, 2007)
Mêlée - Violent Forms Of Laughter Pt. 2 (Arbor, 2007)
Mêlée - Bare Those Excellent Teeth Pt. 2 (Brokenresearch, 2007)
Mêlée - Endings Vol. 8 (American Tapes, ?)
Mêlée with Aaron Siegel (Brokenresearch, 2007)
Mêlée & Joe Morris - Cloud Atlas Quartet (Brokenresearch, 2010)
Leonel Kaplan, Nate Wooley, Audrey Chen - Silo (Utech, 2006)
Evil Eye - Doing It All For My Baby (KMB, 2007)
Ryan Jewell, Reuben Radding, Nate Wooley - Rift (Smeraldina-Rima, 2007)
Chris Forsyth & Nate Wooley - The Duchess Of Oysterville (Creative Sources, 2007)
Paul Lytton & Nate Wooley - Untitled (BrokenResearch, 2008)
Tim Barnes, Nate Wooley & Jason Roebke Trio (Esquilo Records, 2008)
Water Closet Ensemble - Flush Tank Terrorists (Spread The Disease, 2008)
Water Closet Ensemble / Nozone / Indigents - Face It! (Spread The Disease, 2009)
Nate Wooley, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Jason Roebke - Throw Down Your Hammer and Sing (Porter, 2009)
Joe Morris & Nate Wooley - Tooth & Nail (Clean Feed, 2010)
Nate Wooley, Paul Lytton, David Grubbs - Seven Storey Mountain (Important Records, 2009)
Nate Wooley & Paul Lytton - Creak Above 33 (Psi Recordings, 2010)
Nate Wooley - Trumpet/Amplifier (Smeraldina-Rima - 2010)
Nate Wooley Quintet- (Put Your) Hands Together (Clean Feed, 2011)
This is quite an impressive list, but some of the stuff is really hard to find, some of it was released on 25 audio-cassettes only!
As a side-man
Marc Gartman - All's Well That Ends (Pushpin Records, 2002)
Assif Tsahar & The New York Underground Orchestra - The Labyrinth (Hopscotch, 2002)
Assif Tsahar & The New York Underground Orchestra - Fragments (Hopscotch, 2005)
Aarktica - Bleeding Light (Darla Records, 2005)
Reuben Radding - The 12 in 2007 Project (free downloads)
Reuben Radding - Fugitive Pieces (Pine Ear Music, 2006)
Transit - Transit (Clean Feed, 2003)
Transit - Quadrologues (Clean Feed, 2009)
Mary Halvorson, Reuben Radding, Nate Wooley - Crackleknob (Hatology, 2009)
Stephen Gauci - Nididhyasana (Clean Feed)
Stephen Gauci - Absolute, Absolutely (CIMP, 2008)
Stephen Gauci - Whisps Of An Unknown Face (CIMP, 2006)
Daniel Levin - Some Trees (Hatology, 2006)
Daniel Levin - Blurry (Hatology, 2007)
Daniel Levin Quartet - Live At Roulette (Clean Feed, 2009)
Daniel Levin Quartet - Bacalhau (Clean Feed, 2010)
Daniel Levin Quartet - Organic Modernism (Clean Feed, 2011)
Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra - Ashcan Rantings (Clean Feed, 2010)
Matt Bauder - Day In Pictures (Clean Feed, 2010)
Harris Eisenstadt - Canada Day (Clean Feed, 2009)
Harris Eisenstadt - Guewel (Clean Feed, 2008)
Mike Pride, Jack Wright, Ben Wright, Nate Wooley - Tenterhooks (Bug Incision, 2009)
Graveyards - Night In A Graveyard (Rococco Records, 2006)
Graveyards - Night In A Graveyard Part 2 (Rococo, 2006)
Graveyards - Untitled (Qbico, 2008)
Graveyards King Size - Tape Reading Radio Lines (American Tapes, 2008)
Steve Swell - Presents: Magical Listening Hour Live @ The South Street Seaport (CJR, 2008)
Bruce Eisenbeil Sextet - Inner Constellation Volume One (Nemu Records, 2007)
Soccer Committee & Machinefabriek (self-released, 2009)
Pete Robbins’s Unnamed Quartet - Live In Brooklyn (Not Two, 2011)
... and some guest appearances with Peeesseye, Akron/Family, David Grubbs, Anaïs Mitchell, Matthew Welsh,... with the most bizarre performance on the "White Light/White Heat" Lou Reed tribute album by Puttin On The Ritz.
Here is a long and insight-full interview with Nate Wooley.