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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Nate Wooley - Battle Pieces (Relative Pitch, 2015) ****

[b]By Paul Acquaro[/b]

Nate Wooley's Battle Pieces is a thoughtfully conceived album by the NYC based trumpeter and composer. The 'battle pieces' have been deliberately designed as 'backdrops' for the group, which is Wooley, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and vibraphonist Matt Moran, to play off. The instrumentation leaves a lot of room in the space typically occupied by bass and drums, and the group uses this space to express themselves in unique ways.

The album tracks are a sequence of four longer pieces that each feature a band member (I think of the Quadrophenia concept from The Who as I write that) separated by 'tape deconstructions'. The latter is related to 'tape' only conceptually, as they are actually small musical parts that each performer uses and plays with between the longer pieces. Everything was recorded during the same live performance in April of 2014.

The album begins with a flutter of notes from the lone trumpet. Then the vibraphone sneaks in, slowly seeping under Wooley's unfolding ideas. There is an unexpected arpeggio played clear and bright on the trumpet, a sprinkle of notes from Courvoisier's right hand, and as Wooley's acerbic tone contrasts against Moran's shimmering vibraphone, Laubrock enters with an abstract figure. All together, it becomes apparent that for this piece it is the construction of the textures that is paramount. Just listen as the saxophonist and trumpeter use spit, air, and musical threads to tie the piece together.
The next battle piece begins with Laubrock playing a fiery and unpredictable line. When the others join, the music congeals into a frenetic round. 'Battle Piece III' belongs to Moran. He enters tentatively, single notes ring out, attempting to fill a vast space. His piece is more atmospheric than the previous ones, it's deliberate and subtle, light and lithe even when Courvoisier adds a series of chunky chords. The pianist delivers the last piece, it's moody and ruminative, and she digs deep at the end, her foot on the sustain pedal.

The set up and sequencing of the album, featuring the four distinct voices, makes for a captivating listen. Battle Pieces is a thoughtful and unusually constructed album that offers the patient listener a fine musical experience.


nate wooley said...

Hi Paul,

I know the nomenclature is confusing but the Tape deconstructions are that in concept only. The players use small bits of material from the battle pieces as if they were short tape loops for repetition and manipulation. These create different small interstitial pieces that come from the larger pieces. What is on the recording is the concert exactly as it was played with no editing whatsoever.

Paul said...

Nate, thanks for the explanation, I updated the text. Excellent album!

nate wooley said...

Thanks Paul! I appreciate your patience with my titling weirdness