Live recordings from Milwaukee's Sugar Maple in 2015 of the dynamic and amazing duo of NY trumpeter Nate Wooley and Chicago saxophonist Ken Vandermark, a tour-de-force of technical and melodic playing showcasing both players and their nearly telepathic high-speed improv exchange.
Wooley, Nate / Ken Vandermark
All Directions Home
Label: Audiographic Records / Pleasure of the Text Records
Released in: USA
"Recorded last summer at The Sugar Maple, in Milwaukee, the latest release from Ken Vandermark and Nate Wooley, All Directions Home, wastes exactly no time getting going. The opener, Vandermark's "Another Lecture (For Walter Benjamin)," is a hearty, up-tempo blues that absolutely swings. Vandermark and Wooley trade solos woven between unison lines. They rapidly bound ideas back and forth, with Vandermark on baritone sax and Wooley playing to the middle. About a minute in, they lock into a fantastic melody, with Vandermark bounding through a deep bass-like riff, followed by a return to the playful start-stop of the opening. Later, Vandermark forcefully propels Wooley's "Lutoslawski," filling in for an absent rhythm section. He fully owns the lower register, scattering notes across the spectrum during his solos. His second, about two-and-a-half minutes in, takes on the entire breadth of the instrument, and is one my favorite solos on the album. "Battle Piece C," presents a very different view of Wooley's Battle Pieces project, which was documented last year in a quartet setting (and was one of my personal favorites of 2015). Here, Vandemark lays out a series of pops and squeaks, while Wooley slowly fades in with breathy solo. There's no tape deconstruction, and the whole track ends after only a couple of minutes. It prompted me to wonder about a future duos-trios-quartets Battle Pieces set, really pushing the limits of that compositional framework.
"Calling (For Elfriede Jelinek)" is the intensely meditative centerpiece; a showcase for extended techniques from both Vandermark and Wooley, it's also the most emotionally demanding piece on the album. Knowledge of Jelinek or her work as a novelist and playwright certainly isn't required, but Vandermark has composed a piece that nicely echoes themes found in her writing. His yearning extended solo towards the end is buoyed by Wooley's near-silent flutter. Patiently, the two fade to silence, before jumping right into Vandermark's fantastic "Such Science (For Duke Ellington and Muhammad Ali)." I don't know if it'll happen, but I would love to hear an Audio One or Resonance Ensemble take on this. Towards the end, Vandermark and Wooley layer contrasting solos, then abruptly restate the theme in the final 10 seconds. It's a thrill ride, start to finish.
There are two covers, Ornette Coleman's "I Heard It Over the Radio" (also covered by Aki Takase and Silke Eberhard on their duo outing) and 'Mississippi' Fred McDowell's "Done Left Here." On "I Heard It Over the Radio," Vandermark and Wooley's approach draws out the blues that's always at the heart of Coleman's music, slows the tempo slightly, and packs a lot of space around the melody, which doesn't appear until about a minute in. Wooley plays a sprightly, singing solo at the midpoint, before the two return to the melody. There's an apt playfulness to the arrangement, and a really heartfelt, brief solo from Vandermark caps a year of tributes to the great Coleman. Closing the album, "Done Left Here" is presented as a fairly straightforward cover, the duo laying its contemporary sound atop a foundation of McDowell's hill country blues. Wooley screams a high register solo, while Vandermark plays a churning take on McDowell's slide-guitar run. Then comes a lengthy fade, during which the two quietly trade off the melody, before ending on a unison line, echoing the very first notes of the album.
Unfortunately, All Directions Home is yet another release that dropped late in the year and was mostly passed over, save perhaps those following Vandermark and Wooley's career very closely. The pairing is a fruitful one, with two bridging their deep interests in jazz history and tradition with their equally unique talents using extended techniques and crafting avant-garde compositions. In just a few years, we've already had two albums, and I really hope this pace continues. Highly recommended."-Lee Rice Epstein (Free Jazz Blog)
• Show Bio for Nate Wooley
"Nate Wooley was born in 1974 in Clatskanie, Oregon, a town of 2,000 people in the timber country of the Pacific Northwestern corner of the U.S. He began playing trumpet professionally with his father, a big band saxophonist, at the age of 13. His time in Oregon, a place of relative quiet and slow time reference, instilled in Nate a musical aesthetic that has informed all of his music making for the past 20 years, but in no situation more than his solo trumpet performances.
Nate moved to New York in 2001, and has since become one of the most in-demand trumpet players in the burgeoning Brooklyn jazz, improv, noise, and new music scenes. He has performed regularly with such icons as John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, Eliane Radigue, Ken Vandermark, Fred Frith, Evan Parker, and Yoshi Wada, as well as being a collaborator with some of the brightest lights of his generation like Chris Corsano, C. Spencer Yeh, Peter Evans, and Mary Halvorson.
Wooley's solo playing has often been cited as being a part of an international revolution in improvised trumpet. Along with Peter Evans and Greg Kelley, Wooley is considered one of the leading lights of the American movement to redefine the physical boundaries of the horn, as well as demolishing the way trumpet is perceived in a historical context still overshadowed by Louis Armstrong. A combination of vocalization, extreme extended technique, noise and drone aesthetics, amplification and feedback, and compositional rigor has led one reviewer to call his solo recordings "exquisitely hostile".
In the past three years, Wooley has been gathering international acclaim for his idiosyncratic trumpet language. Time Out New York has called him "an iconoclastic trumpeter", and Downbeat's Jazz Musician of the Year, Dave Douglas has said, "Nate Wooley is one of the most interesting and unusual trumpet players living today, and that is without hyperbole". His work has been featured at the SWR JazzNow stage at Donaueschingen, the WRO Media Arts Biennial in Poland, Kongsberg, North Sea, Music Unlimited, and Copenhagen Jazz Festivals, and the New York New Darmstadt Festivals. In 2011 he was an artist in residence at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, NY and Cafe Oto in London, England. In 2013 he performed at the Walker Art Center as a featured solo artist.
Nate is the curator of the Database of Recorded American Music (www.dramonline.org) and the editor-in-chief of their online quarterly journal Sound American (www.soundamerican.org) both of which are dedicated to broadening the definition of American music through their online presence and the physical distribution of music through Sound American Records. He also runs Pleasure of the Text which releases music by composers of experimental music at the beginnings of their careers in rough and ready mediums."-Nate Wooley Website (http://natewooley.com/about)
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• Show Bio for Ken Vandermark
"Born in Warwick, Rhode Island on September 22nd, 1964, Ken Vandermark began studying the tenor saxophone at the age of 16. Since graduating with a degree in Film and Communications from McGill University during the spring of 1986, his primary creative emphasis has been the exploration of contemporary music that deals directly with advanced methods of improvisation. In 1989, he moved to Chicago from Boston, and has worked continuously from the early 1990's onward, both as a performer and organizer in North America and Europe, recording in a large array of contexts, with many internationally renowned musicians (such as Fred Anderson, Ab Baars, Peter Brötzmann, Tim Daisy, Hamid Drake, Terrie Ex, Mats Gustafsson, Devin Hoff, Christof Kurzmann, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Joe McPhee, Paal Nilssen-Love, Paul Lytton, Andy Moor, Joe Morris, and Nate Wooley). His current activity includes work with Made To Break, The Resonance Ensemble, Side A, Lean Left, Fire Room, the DKV Trio, and duos with Paal Nilssen-Love and Tim Daisy; in addition, he is the music director of the experimental Pop band, The Margots. More than half of each year is spent touring in Europe, North America, and Japan, and his concerts and numerous recordings have been critically acclaimed both at home and abroad. In addition to the tenor sax, he also plays the bass and Bb clarinet, and baritone saxophone. In 1999 he was awarded the MacArthur prize for music."-Ken Vandermark Website (http://kenvandermark.com/2013/10/made-to-break-biography/)
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Label: Audiographic Records / Pleasure of the Text Records
Catalog ID: AGR-008 / POTTR1304
Squidco Product Code: 21584
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at a Milwaukee Option performance held at The Sugar Maple on August 2nd and on August 3rd, 2015 by Dave Zuchowski.
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1. Another Lecture (for Walter Benjamin) (5:45)
2. I Prefer The Company of Birds (7:18)
3. Lutoslawski (3:53)
4. Battle Piece C (2:21)
5. I Heard It On The Radio (3:55)
6. Jim The Boy (1:58)
7. Calling (for Elfriede Jelinek) (7:29)
8. Such Science (for Duke Ellington and Muhammad Ali) (5:07)
9. Done Left Here (4:11)