March 3, 2019
Leo Records CD LR 810
Noise of our Time
Intakt CD 310
Allying himself with two different saxophonists, American trumpeter Nate Wooley puts aside distinctive personal projects to participate in these quartet session that approach improvisation in alternate fashions.
Another in what appears to be a continuous outpouring of discs on which Brazilian tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman is coupled with a platoon’s worth of other Jazzers in constantly changing combo form, Octagon includes three equally resourceful Americans who have played with multiple partners: Wooley, bassist Brandon Lopez and drummer Gerald Cleaver. With tracks titled “Part 1” to “Part 8”, it’s obvious that this is a session of free-form improvisation. Alongside Chicago tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark and Wooley, Swiss pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and New York drummer Tom Rainey interpret three compositions by the pianist, three by the reedist and three by the trumpeter.
With sound architecture built up from hulking double-bass thumps, splintering reed cries, dyspeptic brass growls and drum ratchets and shatters, by Octagon’s “Part 2” the horns develop the theme into a contrapuntal match consisting of harsh saxophone split tones and glass-shattering brass notes that themselves move to even higher pitches before settling into an emphatic narrative. The four aptly demonstrate that abstract improvisation can also be advanced in a near-glossy mode on “Part 6”, or with a ferocity that could make Albert Ayler blush on “Part 4”. Evolving in a moderato fashion, “Part 6” shines when Wooley’s flat-line timbres meld with Perelman’s sleek reed slurps to create a relaxed narrative. “Part 4” on the other hand finds both horn player evacuating jagged crackles from each of their instrument’s body tubes, with the trumpeter injecting some staccato “Flight of the Bumblebee”-like bravado into a solo that eventually downshifts into half-valve and whistling effects, cannily paced by Cleaver’s pitter-patter.
With more tonal emphasis on the jarring than the judicious, the quartet enlivens the other tracks by running through many varieties of extended techniques, involving each band member, without losing continuity, Cleaver’s unerring rhythmic sense even allow him to inject hi-hat splashes and a Bop-beat if circumstances warrant it. And the entire group’s strategy climaxes on the final track as reed cries follow descending triple tonguing from Wooley and string slices from Lopez.
Meanwhile, Noise of our Time lives up to its title. It showcases the other quartet dealing with novel definitions of so-called noise, by using various meters and tonalities. Still the real meat of the disc is served up as the four unite to interpret the output from three very different composers. Most conventional in this context is Courvoisier, since two of her pieces are concerned with rhythmic stop-time elaboration and a Bop-like configuration. “VWCR”, the last, intersects the trebly keyboard swing and inner-piano plucks with Wooley’s wiggling grace notes and Vandermark’s nephritic reed snarls. Rainey’s inventive, hand-patterning drumming gets a proper showcase on Wooley’s “Songs of Innocence”, which otherwise is distinguished by chromatic inference as the piano and clarinet move outwards in double counterpoint. The trumpet’s upstanding contribution is “The Space Between the Teeth”, where an intermittent theme involving irregular chording, and undulating horn blowing includes silent pauses.
Vandermark’s maturing compositional skills means that a tune such as the concluding “Simple Cut” positions galloping drum patterns and contrapuntal piano lines below a mellow horn intersection that expands and pulls the exposition without falling into dissonance. In contrast the sinewy and spry “Track and Field” ambles along fuelled by Rainey’s energetic beat, peeping plunger trumpeting, dynamic clinks and clips from Courvoisier’s keyboard and smeary horn glissandi from the composer’s clarinet.
Holding his own in both circumstance as a performer and composer, the discs confirm why Wooley’s profile continues to rise in improvised music.
Track Listing: Octagon: 1. Part 1 2. Part 2 3. Part 3 4. Part 4 5. Part 5 6. Part 6 7. Part 7 8. Part 8
Personnel: Octagon: Nate Wooley (trumpet); Ivo Perelman (tenor saxophone); Brandon Lopez (bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums)
Track Listing: Noise: 1. Checkpoint 2. Track and Field 3. Sparks 4. The Space Between the Teeth 5. Tag 6. Songs of Innocence 7. VWCR 8. Truth Through Mass Individuation 9. Simple Cut
Personnel: Noise: Nate Wooley (trumpet); Ken Vandermark (tenor saxophone, clarinet); Sylvie Courvoisier (piano) and Tom Rainey (drums)