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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Evan Parker, Joe Morris and Nate Wooley – Ninth Square (Clean Feed, 2015) ****

With two grizzled veterans of free music, Evan Parker and Joe Morris, working alongside one of the “young guns” of the genre, Nate Wooley, this recording looked on paper to promise a stimulating hour or so of creative, expertly-played improvisations.  And it doesn’t disappoint.

From the album’s opener, “Temple Elm” onward, these guys display the confident assurance of knowing what they’re doing, and trusting in their chops, to allow them to establish conversations in which each can contribute as he sees fit, without trying to dominate the music.  And that’s saying something, because each of these musicians is an outsized presence in free improvisation; for the three to work so well together, really as a unit, is indeed noteworthy.  If the moment calls for Parker to take an extended turn, whether on tenor or soprano sax, Morris and Wooley are content to let him have it; and the same goes for the others.  And it’s just as likely for two of the three to collaborate for a stretch, while the third conceives of a way to join in the conversation, eventually taking the result to another level altogether.  And there are some truly striking moments on this disc: when Parker engages in a sustained solo bout of circular breathing on the fourth track, “Grove State,” for example, it’s an effective example of what his fans have come to love about his music: potent, searching, technically brilliant.  But when Morris and Wooley then join in, three minutes into the cut, the effect is bracing.  They enhance the power of Parker’s already-formidable playing, vividly revealing the potential of what all three are capable of producing together.

Of course, Morris and Wooley are no slouches either, to put it mildly.  Wooley utilizes his usual arsenal of smears, sputters, and other breathing techniques on the trumpet to generate surprise and dynamic flexibility, with frantic flurries of notes alternating with long, sustained tones.  Morris has a wide range of effects and stylistic devices he uses to draw out different sonic textures from his guitar, helping to give a different feel to each of the record’s six tracks.  And the recording quality is quite strong, with Morris in the left channel, Parker in the right, and Wooley in the center, allowing for easy recognition and appreciation of each player’s contributions.  The clarity of the recording is especially striking given that it’s a live performance – one recorded at Firehouse 12 in 2014, in fact.  Really the only thing missing from the recording is the audience, and I’m sure there was a good deal of genuine enthusiasm in the room as these three masters of free improvisation dazzled with their respective talents. 

Yet another exciting recording in the Clean Feed catalogue, highly recommended.

Available from and Downtown Music Gallery


Dan said...

There was indeed an audience! Firehouse 12 is a unique venue, in that plastic chairs are set up inside of the recording studio. As a result, the size of the audience is always rather limited, making for a really intimate concert (and still, I'm always disappointed at how many empty chairs there are when I see shows there...)

If I remember correctly, the sets were made up of quite long pieces, which have probably been cut up a bit for this release. So that explains the clarity of the recording, and the overall lack of audience noise!

Colin Green said...

I suspect the absence of applause is for the reasons mentioned here: