Trumpeter Nate Wooley, with his personal language consisting of extended technique and taut, haunting lyricism, is one of the most captivating trumpeters around. Wooley brought his quintet to the Stone in Manhattan on Friday, July 15th, 2011, with baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton, vibraphonist Matt Moran, drummer Harris Eisentstadt, and tubist Dan Peck. A version of the quintet (on the album Eivind Opsvik plays bass in Peck’s stead) released the album (Put Your) Hands Together
this year on Clean Feed Records, and with it, Wooley marks a significant new chapter in his career.
Most of Wooley’s work falls on the fringes of jazz. His previous albums feature improvised music with varying degrees of structure. Seven Storey Mountain
(2009, Important Records), for example, finds Wooley, percussionist Paul Lytton, and guitarist David Grubbs, playing a loose improvisation of free-ranging, wild sounds, harmonium drones, and percussive flourishes over a tape accompaniment by Wooley. A trumpet, distorted through an amplifier that’s turned up to 11, could be mistaken for anything but, and this is an oft-used and mystery-inducing tactic in Wooley’s music.
(Put Your) Hands Together is a turn towards jazz. “Cecelia” is a tune based on the changes of “Confirmation” by Charlie Parker. During the then improvised sections however, the harmonies are stretched and mutated. “Hands Together” sounds like a funky gutbucket blues running into some mechanical complications as the solos spin out from their soulful foundation. Most importantly though, the album creates ideal settings for all five of this group’s excellent improvisers. Although exercising plenty of freedom, the band members establish a firm and unique atmosphere in each tune.
The Nate Wooley Quintet’s performance at The Stone showed the progression of the group’s music since the album's release. The substitution of tuba for string bass, and Sinton’s favoring the baritone saxophone over the bass clarinet (mostly the opposite is true on the album), gave the group a more brass-band oriented sound, with edgy and metallic resonance. Lyricism was in no short supply. Wooley found a sublime balance between a warm, melodic sound and the throwing-a-refrigerator-down-a-staircase sort of sounds for which he is known. All five musicians struck a similar posture, where freedom and allegiance to the tune created a beautiful tension throughout, creating moments of resolution like a held breath finally released.