Free Jazz review by Stef Gissels

Joe Morris & Nate Wooley – Tooth And Nail (CF 190)

I have had the chance to listen to this album many months before it was released (thanks Nate!), and even if I found it hard and harsh and raw during the first listens, with Morris’s nervous little guitar sounds cascading over each other, bouncing back and forth, with trumpeter Nate Wooley’s tones ranging from the voiced to almost soundless whispers.

Because Morris plays acoustic guitar, and because Wooley’s trumpet sound is the opposite from muscular, with notes falling out of his trumpet rather than soaring through the ceiling, the music is incredibly intimate and close, warm even, despite the atonal nature of the proceedings. It is an alien universe, but like most avant-garde work, you as the listener need to make an effort too.

And once you’ve listened to it a lot, you start discerning structure, or repeated patterns, or little echoes that are not so obvious at first hearing.  And once you’re in their universe, it all is very welcoming, charming even, precious, sensitive and fragile.

Listen to Morris’s intro to the second piece “Gigantica”, on which – in contrast to the title – sounds escape from the guitar that you would not expect, almost harplike, yet each note played in singular isolation, with lots of space around them. Wooley accentuates by blowing some little puffs of air over it.  But on other tracks the guitar evolves with arpeggiated chords, equally minimalist yet with a touch more density, with the trumpet adding voiced interaction, in a language that is incomprehensible though touching.

It is a strange universe, but it is coherent, appealing and sometimes even hypnotic.

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