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Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Hugo Antunes, Nate Wooley & Chris Corsano - Old Is Gold (Self, 2020) ****

 By Stef Gijssels

"It is a rare treat to hear a trio of trumpet, bass and drums. The format is a challenging one for all involved, both player and listener, but, it is also rewarding when the players are as talented as the Sangha Trio. The band succeeds because they take special care to vary the textures, moods and grooves, and because the three musicians pass around the role of lead and accompaniment so unselfishly melding that ability with wonderful equal voice polyphony. (...) This is one of the best young bands playing improvised music anywhere", writes an enthusiastic Ron Miles in the liner notes of the Sangha Trio, with 'Nathan' Wooley on trumpet, Eric Warren on bass and Charlie Doggett on drums. The album is called "Frantically, Frantically Being At Peace" and really worth looking for. I found a copy in a jazz store in Philadelphia many many years ago, but I guess that was a stroke of luck. Then, at the age of 23, Nate Wooley had already something to say. 

In the meantime Wooley explored musical languages in styles in many formats and projects, but he somehow kept coming back to the basic trio of trumpet, bass and drums. There is "Trio" with Tim Barnes and Jason Roebke, "Six Feet Under" with Paul Lytton and Christian Weber, and "Malus" with Hugo Antunes and Chris Corsano. 

Now, because of corona, Brussels-based Portuguese bass player Hugo Antunes decided to put some existing recordings on  Bandcamp, including this wonderful trio with the "Malus" line-up. There is no further explanation of when this was recorded or how it organisationally relates to "Malus". 

As with the Sangha Trio, this is a real trio album, with all three musicians taking their role in determining the sound of the band, and the music is still performed with the same enthusiasm, spontaneity and energy as so many years ago. Of course there's no comparison possible. We hear three musicians with lots of experience and maturity. The technical instrumental skills are clearly more advanced, as is their confidence in performing as a trio, possibly best illustrated by the fact that they don't feel the need to fill moments of silence.  The "challenging format" that Ron Miles described, is not an issue here, I would even say to the contrary, the format allows the musicians a lot of freedom to move in any direction they want, and they do, with discipline and with a good sense of adventure. 

It is not boundary-breaking, it does not sound like something you've never heard before, but that does not bother. It is also not the intention. You get three musicians enjoying their skills of listening and creating music together, full of spontaneous energy and emotional connection. 

It's a simple jazzy format. Authentic and fun to listen to, reaching down to deep roots, including Antunes walking bass in the second track, but which branches reaching to open-ended skies (I know: I've used the metaphor before, but it's still useful to describe the breadth and sound of the band). 

Everything on this album is to enjoy. 

Listen and download from Bandcamp