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Friday, May 20, 2016

Ken Vandermark & Nate Wooley – Islington Mill, Manchester, 17.05.16

Photo by Peter Fay
By Colin Green

As a brief coda to the week of duo reviews we have Ken Vandermark and Nate Wooley’s double-act at Islington Mill, a location rapidly affording Manchester with a regular venue for free jazz and improv.

The pair draw inspiration, and took the opening ‘And She Speaks’, from the classic duo of John Carter and Bobby Bradford. With Vandermark on clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophones and Wooley on trumpet this was whistle-stop tour of what seemed like the whole of jazz history, drawn primarily from their two albums: East by Northwest and All Directions Home. It was a bravura display, inspiring and terrific fun, executed with a sparkle and bounce mirrored in the wit of their between numbers patter – ‘Deconstructed Folks’ was dedicated to Jerry Lewis, using its bebop rhythms as a springboard for excursions into other territory. On ‘Best Coast’ they moved between nimble unisons and free flow, with smeared microtones on trumpet, and ‘Another Lecture’ gave us an earthy baritone with agile trumpet, percussive bursts set against scurrying runs. On ‘I Prefer the Company of Birds’ (Wooley’s not very convincing claim to be a sociopath) the duo careered from slapstick to mournful. ‘Such Science’ saw some dexterous counterpoint with them cuing each other in.

They concluded with a rendition of ‘I Heard it on the Radio’, written by Ornette but never recorded by him. After pretending to have left the stage (it saves a lot of hassle) they turned round and played an encore of ‘Jim the Boy’. 

The duo play in Zurich tonight and the tour ends in Stockholm tomorrow (details here) before Wooley heads back to New York and Vandermark teams up with Paal Nilssen-Love for a summer tour of Europe. Catch them if you can.

Vandermark and Wooley with Ornette’s ‘Peace’: