Nate Wooley Quintet – (PUT YOUR) HANDS TOGETHER (CF 218 )
Nate Wooley has a compound identity as a trumpeter. On one hand, he’s created a body of work in free improvisation (as a soloist and in duos with Paul Lytton, Chris Forsyth and Peter Evans) preoccupied with exploring the trumpet’s sonic possibilities and issues of space, duration and free interaction. Conversely, he’s also a sideman in some highly creative but more traditional jazz groups, like the Daniel Levin Quartet and Harris Eisenstadt’s Canada Day. Wooley’s own quintet dates from 2008, and it clearly represents a coming-together of those interests, an attentiveness to both the minutiae of sound and the exploration of group relations within loose forms, the combination creating profoundly nuanced work.
The Levin and Eisenstadt groups are mentioned here for more than a casual CV: the Wooley quintet has a closely related instrumentation to both and with them articulates a very specific tradition. The trumpeter shares the front-line with Josh Sinton, here a dedicated bass clarinettist, there’s a rhythm section of bassist Eivind Opsvik on bass and Eisenstadt on drums and vibraphonist Mat Moran covers the middle ground (chordal, comping) usually reserved for a piano. Moran is a member of the Levin group and the quintet-with-vibraphone format is similar to Eisenstadt’s own band. It establishes a common parallel to several bands that recorded for Blue Note in the 60s, led by Jackie McLean, Don Cherry and most notably Eric Dolphy, and it reflects an historical sense of a group language that all of those bands participated in—funk and freedom, the etched and the resonant, the lingering electric haze of the vibraphone—right down to the slinky, soulful figure that introduces the Wooley quintet on the shifting “Hands Together.” While Sinton’s bass clarinet—often in his hands a vocalic explosion—might seem like special homage to Dolphy’s Out to Lunch, it also emphasizes a particular layering of overtone patterns with the trumpet and vibraphone that contributes to the band’s sonic character.
Before “Come Together,” you’ve already had an introductory unaccompanied trumpet solo on the first of three versions of a piece called “Shanda Lea.” As that repeating theme suggests, Wooley’s interests in reflection and recirculation are often at the fore: the CD’s bracketing solos can evoke shakuhachi meditations and the chattering muted trumpets of New Orleans, like a Joe Oliver discourse on the dharma. That sense of return is so strong that the last group piece, “Hazel,” is a round with bass and bass clarinet picking up the trumpet melody. While there are relatively brief, chamber music-like reveries, like the stately “Erna” and the brief and evanescent “Pearl,” which emphasize composition and texture, the most engaging music here is also the most sustained: longer group explorations like “Cecelia,” a piece that superimposes a rapid pointillist line atop hovering vibes and bass. In its development, it doesn’t just present a string of soloists but a continuous dialogue in which each new lead voice emerges organically from both composition and collective, highlighting the individual contributions of Moran, Opsvik and Eisenstadt.
There’s a special grace in Nate Wooley’s lines throughout, a sense of order and sequence that will link the warmest melodic extrusion, interpolated quarter-tone run, sudden Bronx cheer and spear-like blast of pure brass. This is music of the first order, attentiveness to sonic detail informing its every gesture.