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Mary Halvorson, Reuben Radding & Nate Wooley: Crackleknob

Troy Collins By

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A compelling example of evenhanded group improvisation, the self-titled debut of the collective trio Crackleknob demonstrates the sort of congenial rapport fueled by longstanding friendships. Up and coming improvisers on the nascent Brooklyn scene, guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Reuben Radding and trumpeter Nate Wooley first played as a trio four years ago. Since then, they have collaborated in various situations ranging from impromptu line-ups to regular touring ensembles.

A fearless improviser, Radding has served as sideman to free jazz heavyweights Daniel Carter, Wally Shoup, and Jack Wright, while Wooley's collaborations with cellist Daniel Levin and the collective quartet Transit (featuring Radding) have displayed his fondness for the revolutionary trumpet sounds of Bill Dixon and Lester Bowie. Halvorson's resume reads like a who's who of creative contemporary jazz (Anthony Braxton, Taylor Ho Bynum, Jason Moran, John Tchicai, etc.), supported by a burgeoning discography as diverse as it is urbane. Together they bring a refined sensibility to these skeletal musical frameworks, centering their eclectic energies on a unified goal.

The ten impressionistic pieces featured on Crackleknob are models of concise invention, averaging about two to five minutes in duration, with only one piece over eight. Allowing each sketch to play out in a logical, organic fashion, the trio focuses on linear development, rather than spinning variations on thematic motifs.

Similar to a long form suite, the session unfolds in a pointillist, introspective vein, with fragmentary interludes providing swells of bustling activity. Attentive listening skills enrich their sublime interactions as Wooley plies long, plangent glisses underscored by Halvorson's delicate acoustic arpeggios and Radding's restrained pulses. Intermittently revealing a more assertive approach, Halvorson's spasmodic amplified fretwork, Radding's acerbic arco drones, and Wooley's banshee-like howls congeal into spiky, caterwauling discourse.

A first-rate example of spontaneous musical dialog between empathetic peers, Crackleknob combines the timbral adventurousness of European free-improvisation with post-AACM dynamics and contemporary trends in lower-case improv.

Visit Mary Halvorson, Reuben Radding and Nate Wooley on the web.

Track Listing: Under The Weight Of Aphorisms; The Poor Chew Words To Fill Their Stomachs; In The Teeth Of Ideology; Spoilsports; Libidinous Objects & The Decay Of Self; Lakehurst, 1937; Quavering Voices Of The Mutilated; In The Application Of Standards; Caldwell, 1925; The Cadence Of Her Dying Breath.

Personnel: Mary Halvorson: guitar; Reuben Radding: double bass; Nate Wooley: trumpet.

Title: Crackleknob | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Hat Hut Records

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