The New York Times – Nate Wooley Quintet – (Dance to) the Early Music

By Nate Chinen

The trumpeter Nate Wooley can usually be found along the avant-garde spectrum, working with formal abstraction and extended technique. But he isn’t an ironist, something worth keeping in mind as it applies to his new release, “(Dance to) the Early Music” (Clean Feed). A spin through the early small-group repertory of Wynton Marsalis, it’s an album whose concept runs perilously close to prankish: Your gut reaction may depend on how you feel about white musicians rooting around in “Black Codes (From the Underground),” the sociopolitically charged album Mr. Marsalis made 30 years ago. But it’s clear Mr. Wooley has seriously engaged with this music as an earnest challenge. His quintet wisely features Josh Sinton on bass clarinet rather than tenor saxophone, and Matt Moran on vibraphone, instead of piano. (As for the drummer Harris Eisenstadt and the bassist Eivind Opsvik, they bring a light touch to a heavy assignment.) There are some atonal flare-ups, like the trumpet prologue on “Skain’s Domain,” but by and large, the band meets the music on its own terms, making an implicit point about the overstatement of a historical rift in jazz, and the unforeseen ways in which inspiration can flow.


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