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Friday, January 25, 2013

Joe Morris, Agustí Fernández, Nate Wooley - From the Discrete to the Particular (Relative Pitch, 2012)

Well, it seems to have happened again, a double review by the Paolo's of the Free Jazz Blog...

Joe Morris, Agustí Fernández, Nate Wooley - From the Discrete to the Particular (Relative Pitch, 2012) ****

Being perfectly aware that a trio featuring Joe Morris on guitar, Agustí Fernández on piano and Nate Wooley on trumpet can’t be, for an immanent reason connected to the mastery of the musicians, less than rewarding, my attention has instead been caught by the title of the album. Echoing and mixing several philosophical and scientific subjects it is, in my opinion, a brief and inspired description of some tendencies and paths sketched out in the compositions.

“Automatos” offers a parabolic curve structure where you can focus, starting from the opening, on very discrete elements of the ensemble - each instrument could be perfectly self-sufficient and this is not always true for every single part of a score if it has not been conceived as a solo piece - merging in a really dense and involving continuous. Fernández  is immediately terse, stinging with short phrases contrasted in the first half by the hoarse voice of Wooley and the initial far grating of Morris guitar then soon disappearing for several minutes. The six strings come back in the second half facing spasmodically the growing piano and joining the brass. “As expected” and “Bilocation” are conceived as piano/guitar duets with the gentle touch of Morris inserting below the trestle of the piano. Wooley’s muted trumpet enhances even more the delicacy of these constructions. Tension grows back in “Hieratic” where the prepared acoustic guitar of Morris (watch out the solo of minutes 5 and 6) set the stage for a dissonant and offbeat duet with the trumpet. “Membrane” and “That Mountain” and especially the closing “Chums of Chance” represent three really more hectic episodes in the evolution of the album. The three musicians give here more room to extended techniques and experimentalism. In particular the final eleven minutes long chapter of the work seems to strongly reaffirm a kind of double nature or condition of each instrument. The prepared piano starts as the rhythm beater of the composition with hammering chords outbursts. Fernández put through the wringer the piano’s wires but he closes the piece with a gentle, really clear fingering. The fragments of Wooley’s trumpet are as usual extra-terrestrial but he chooses to re-join to the piano in the closure with a really vintage far sound, while Morris is perpetually bowing the strings in a complete overthrow of his instrument.

Tracklist is also significant. Track 1, the central 4 and the last 7 have an enough similar length and development. The two symmetric couples of tracks 2,3 and then 5,6 are both shorter and in each couple the two elements have similar length and structure or we could say “musical mood” (calm and tradition in the dyad 2-3, chaos and experiment in 5-6). The progress of the album is then a kind of fractal figure, and this approach known as “from the universal to the particular” can be employed on each single track and up to each single passage in a sort of regressus ad infinitum. Or everything above said is just a matter of coincidence. It is certainly just a matter of coincidence. 

But it is true what I’ve said at the beginning. These people play in a unique way.

By the way I could add that external devices - mute on trumpet, prepared guitar and piano - are mainly used in track 3, 4 and 7 that is clearly a clue of a Fibonacci series starting. Take your own conclusion!

Buy it at instantjazz.

Joe Morris, Agustí Fernández, Nate Wooley - From the Discrete to the Particular (Relative Pitch, 2012) ****

After seeing Joe Morris, Agustí Fernández, Nate Wooley and Ken Vandermark at the The Stone recently, I had a brief conversation that went a little like this:

"So, what did you think?" I asked a fellow attendee. 

"It was great," was the reply, "The sax just dropped in and added to it. The trio had become so tight I was wondering what was going to happen..." 

"Trio?" I replied, confused. "Oh, right, Morris, Fernández and Wooley"

And all the next day I kept asking myself, why did I say that? All I can think is that the group I had just heard - a quartet - had really boggled my mind in the most welcome way, and suffice to say, the trio here on From the Discrete to the Particular is the core of the musical group I had just experienced. The sounds from inside the piano (that had me standing and peering over the audience to see how they were being made during the concert) to the minute and not so minute interactions and intertwining with the guitar and trumpet is captured here wonderfully. I am aware of Fernández and Morris having worked together, releasing Ambrosia  a few years ago, and the combo of Morris and Wooley on Tooth and Nail but I believe that this is the first time that the three of them have released an album all together, and the combination is potent and exciting. 

From what I can tell, the tracks are pure improvisation, of-the-moment constructions of moods and fragments of feelings. From the skittering beginning of 'Automatos' through the ruminative probing of 'Bilocation', to the extemporaneous combustion found on 'Hieratic', the group's approach to improvization and free playing covers a great deal of territory. Through all of the notes and approaches, all three of the musicians contribute equally, resulting in a cohesive set of sound and textures. Fernández's use of the whole piano creates a sonic blanket at times upon which Wooley may lay his notes down or perhaps puncture with pointed blasts. Morris' approach to the guitar, which at times may or may not include kitchen utensils and letter openers, contributes rhythmic figures and counter-melodies to the fierce rhythmic runs on the piano.

Honestly, it's hard to really capture in words the sympathetic and interactive playing here. This is an album that is evocative and emotive, built around quite non-traditional song structure and plenty of extended technique. It can capture the listener between the hints of melody (the trumpet and piano cat and mouse chase at the end of 'Hieratic' is good fun) and surprise with unexpected twists. It isn't music to pick apart and try to listen for individual prowess, rather it's something to sit back and let wash over you and muddle your senses -- or is it? -- on second though it can also be a lot of fun analyzing the snippets of Fernandez's melodic lines as they serves as the glue between Wooley's brash tones and Morris' textures and colorations.  

The album, like the aforementioned show that left me speechless, is intense and rewarding.

The January 17th 2013 set at The Stone:

  © stef


Martin Schray said...

Really great reviews. Both approaches to the trio's music are appropriate, well-written and elucidating. I'd like to see them live, too. Would it be a good idea for the collective if we discussed and reviewed live performances as well?

Richard said...

My only opposition to reviewing live performances would be that I'd be envious of the great shows you all get to see while I'm stuck up here in the great white north. One good thing about occasionally covering live shows is that you could alert the Free Jazz readers for new talents to keep an eye out for.

As for the review, it's great to see some love for fractals and Fibonacci on the site. I'll have to pick this one up.

Paul said...

Thanks for the note Richard. Definitely spoiled with shows down this way in NYC. Caught Tim Berne, Drew Gress and Tom Rainey the other night on a whim (Sorry, couldn't help it).

Stef said...

Great album ... I wish I could have reviewed it :-) Highly recommended!