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Friday, November 1, 2013

Trumpets and Drums: Live in Ljubljana (Clean Feed, 2013) ****½


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.

You can purchase it at Instantjazz

Check out “Beginning” here:

17 comments:

Michael Campbell said...

Looking forward to hearing this, but I don't think there's any need to denigrate any other types of music just to give this music a more elevated status. Katy Perry ain't all that bad.

Colin Green said...

A word of warning: depending on which part of town you’re in, giving them your nicest smile could result in a loss of teeth! I’m reminded of the journalist who stopped at lights while playing Chopin on his car stereo. A local yoof leaned in through the window and told him to “turn that shit off”. Imagine the response if he’d been playing free jazz.

Anonymous said...


Oh so superior. Music as good as you describe doesn't require elitism

Thomas said...

Honestly, I'd rather listen to Katy Perry than this album...

It seemed to me that this album has quite a lot of the "showing-off" that Evans is often accused of, and I say this as a fan of Evans, Lytton and Black.

Martin Schray said...

Wow, interesting reactions. We never intended to be elitist, it is just an experience I have made more than once. It's just funny, nothing more. We never wanted to denigrate other types of music, we are great fans of rock and pop music ourselves. But seriously, Katy Perry?

Stef said...

I have no idea who Kate Perry is, but my interest is aroused!

Paolo Casertano said...

Pretending not to have prejudices. This is elitism and maybe also etilism. Everyone of us can listen to Katy Perry just having clear in his mind she's not doing music. Karl and Janus risked their lives there in the buttery land of sachertorte just to remind it us all.

Martin Schray said...

Even worse, guys: There will be a sequel of our adventures when we will tell about what happened when we listened to Mats Gustafsson's and Thurston Moore's new album while driving through our beloved Tirol.

Colin Green said...

What does “etilism” mean: I can’t find it in my copy of the OED.

I didn’t read any of the persons making adverse comment as saying that they were free from prejudice (none of us are) but that the tone of the review was unnecessarily smug and patronising.

Oh, and like Stef I have no idea who Katy Perry is, but a friend says she’s very good.

Dan said...

We all have our preferences, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to make a serious argument that what Katy Perry does "isn't music."

If anything, your objection to it is likely rooted in the fact that it's too musical; after all that's what pop music is, a distillation of the musical elements a majority of people find most pleasing.

It's easy to get pulled into the mindset that, because we enjoy a style of music that is more abstract or challenging, we must have more discerning or refined tastes than those who are satisfied by "mere" pop music.

But real-world experience has proved humbling time and time again: many more people hear this music as unbearable, and find it to be the "bullshit" they can't fathom anyone enjoying.

Paolo Casertano said...

I tought the tone of my comment was just joking as the tone of the review in general.
About etilism I'm certainly wrong. Giving the meaning of "ethylic" for granted, I hoped that building it wasn't this hasty. It seems instead that alcoholism is enough. But still, it sounded good to my ears, as the music of Katy Perry does not.
What I understand here it's that despite Voltaire' s tragic death 302 years ago, supporters of his ironic boutade "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it" are still many.
And yet I know none of you is listening to the big boobed Katy right now...

Paolo Casertano said...

I tought the tone of my comment was just joking as the tone of the review in general.
About "etilism" I'm certainly wrong. I hoped that giving "ethylic" for granted, building the world wasn't this hasty. It seems "alcoholism" is enough. Still it sounded good to my ears, as a song by Katy Perry does not.
What I learn here is that despite the tragic death of Voltaire 302 years ago, the supporters of his ironic boutade "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it" are still many.
And yet I know none of you is listening to the big boobed Katy right now...

Stef said...

Katy Perry, I never heard of you, but i'm increasingly intrigued ....

Colin Green said...

Why was Voltaire’s death tragic? He died at the ripe old age of 83, back in Paris and celebrated as a returning hero. I’d settle for that.

And what might I ask is wrong with big boobs?

Martin Schray said...

Since I had the idea with Katy Perry: In the first draft I had Justin Bieber instead of Katy Perry. I wonder what kind of comments that would have inspired ;-).

But hey, finally we had a discussion.

Dan said...

haha I probably wouldn't have chimed in if it had been a Bieber reference. (Although my distaste for him stems largely from his ridiculous public posturing. Can't say I've actually heard all that many Bieber songs...)

Paolo Casertano said...

Hey Colin, my irony must be cryptic indeed, at least in English. Nothing is tragic in Voltaire's dead. But probably it's tragic that the celebration of some of his thoughts started then is never really finished, partly contributing to the western world fake democratic vision...
In any case you will never ever hear me saying something bad about big boobs...to whatever musical genre they belong…