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Monday, December 31, 2012

Paul Lytton/Nate Wooley + Ikue Mori & Ken Vandermark – The Nows (Clean Feed, 2012)****½

By Paolo Casertano 

End of the year. Time for judgments. Nate Wooley is my favourite 2012 trumpet player. An overview of all the astounding releases he has given us during this year could justify a monographic review of many pages. I realized my admiration even better after this impressive work done in collaboration with the veteran and pioneer drummer Paul Lytton, and featuring Ikue Mori and Ken Vandermark as well. The suppleness of registers and styles that Wooley deploys, with results always at ease, is really mind-boggling. He can easily switch from pure experimentalism delving into rumorism à la Toshinori Kondo and Axel Dörner (to be more frequently found in his solo productions or in superb collaborations with the other young trumpet phenomenon Peter Evans) to more traditional and sentimental phrasings à la Magnus Broo. I’ve never seen him live, so I really wonder which kind of amplifying settings he adopts to achieve this sound.

Obviously the 35 minutes long “Free Will, Free Won’t” is an exhaustive manifesto of such an attitude. We find blasting open notes sounding like scratches on vinyl, raucous and screeching passages with the marching Lytton’s drums running after. Some unbelievably long notes achieved with circular breathing transfigure in drone carpets. In the meanwhile Lytton amuse himself with thousands of Mikado sticks - I like to think he’s indeed using these - hitting every inch of skin, metal and wood he can reach. For many minutes in the second half of this composition Wooley doesn’t produce anymore a single recognizable note. He plays instead with the air silently blown in his instrument’s tubing.

Ikue Mori creates in “Abstractions and Repetitions” a minimal electronics scenario where Lytton inserts subtle and far interludes of clangors and beats while Wooley seems to explore the vocal potentialities of trumpet. As Meredith Monk could do. I personally consider not to be missed the last four minutes of intensive dialogue between Mori and Lytton in “Berlyne’s Law”.

“Men Caught Staring” opening disc two is another gem offering the duo’s total music vision, comfortably oscillating between innovation (watch out for Wooley's distorted synth and “Vocoder” starting around minute ten or the gibberish effect in the final part!) and solid, awe-inspiring free interplay as in the short and perfect “The Information Bomb”.

The presence of Vandermark’s sax starting from “Automatic” drives Wooley and Lytton to more traditional but not less remarkable soundscapes. Brasses face each other through long sentences joining in emotional crescendos. Lytton is now set free for long soloing and when the other two musicians come back are clearly influenced from the rhythmic environment he has built, choosing at first a short syncopated conversation, and then intensifying the groove up to the final outburst.

This is a live recording. Sound quality is outstanding.

Quantity is seldom a per se value, but we have here one hundred and nine minutes of pure, passionate, involving high quality music. I regret to not have included this in my personal 2012 Best Album List.
Sincere thanks as a listener to Clean Feed for its productive efforts in the field of free jazz. It is, in my opinion, the label that has contributed more than any other to the production of memorable music during 2012. Music that will certainly last for many years to come.

Buy at Instantjazz

Take a look to an excerpt of the gig documented in disc two (and know why sometimes listening a well mixed and mastered record is better than attending to a concert!)


Martin Schray said...

As a trumpet player Wooley is hard to beat (even by Peter Evans). I guess live he must be awe-inspiring (I haven't seen him either),but youtube impressions like this: might give us an impression. I also regret that I haven't put this album in my Top Ten but unfortunately 2012 was a great year as to releases. I also agree with your opinion that Clean Feed is one of the best labels for this music in general. Does anybody have a theory why a lot of these great labels are located in small countries like Portugal, Lithuania (NoBusiness) or Poland (Not Two)? As usual a really nice review.

Stef said...

Hi Martin, I'm not so sure that Poland is a "small" country, but that being said, I think there is only one explanation : the entrepreneurship and passion of a few individuals, in this case Pedro Costa (Clean Feed), Marek Winiarski (Not Two) and Danas Mikailionis (No Business). The difference with other labels (Sans Bruit, AUM, Rune Grammofon, ...) is that the three labels you mention focus on an international portfolio, rather than on a local one. But don't forget Leo Records, Ayler and RogueArt. It is clear that Europe at the moment offers more possibilities for some musicians than US labels. I guess the market in Europe is bigger too, but I have no data to support this.


Richard said...

Agree completely on your cheers for Clean Feed. They really are a treasure.

I was lucky enough to see Nate with the Canada Day band. It was a great pleasure. He's technically great, and at the same time, interacts with the other musicians brilliantly. The interplay between Nate and Matt Bauder was amazing.

For some reason, I've stared at this several times and not bought it. I'll take this review as an excuse.

Anonymous said...

this may be of interest for you:
next year Clean Feed will probably (hopefuly?) release "Trumpet and Drums" (Peter Evans, Nate Wooley, Jim Black, Paul Lytton) - live at the Ljubljana Jazz Festival (Ljubljana Jazz Series). That one was a blast!


Anonymous said...

I hope that the concert of Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra (with Nate Wooley) in Ljubljana which was recorded, will also see the light of day ...


Martin Schray said...

Thank you Bostjan,
and of course I am looking forward to both albums.

Dan said...

I saw Wooley a couple years back with Daniel Levin's quartet, and he really is an impressive musician. Totally focused and devoted to the music. I often find myself clicking "Buy" when his name comes up, even without hearing any sound samples...