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!)