When Nate Wooley appeared at the 2007 Festival of New Trumpet Music in New York, it seemed like something of a statement of intent. Wooley had been gigging around town, but here he was presenting, giving a performance of a conceived piece with two known players from different spheres. Wooley was here to play.
From the vantage of a preserved recording (and one thankfully saved from a PA hum that plagued the performance), Wooley pulled something off. The unusual instrumentation of his trumpet, Lytton's small, amplified percussion and the drones from Grubbs' harmonium come together in a beautifully meditative piece just shy of 40 minutes. There's a sensibility to the progression, the inclines and plateaus, the pulses and tones, that instills a sort of rationale for the tiny events that happen within. Lytton, of course, is delicate and busy, and Wooley seems often underwater. Grubbs provides the center support. The reedy breathing emanating from his instrument gives life, in a way that feels literal, to the work.
Their ramp is a long one; it's at about the halfway point that they begin to come together as a forward-moving trio, and what wasn't lacking before is fairly stunning upon arrival. Where they'd been contemplative, they become restless, as if a break in the clouds revealed light at the top of the mountain. Birds start to circle, the wind grows colder, and then there is a renewed peace, an earned one. Wooley made a moving mountain.
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