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Nate Wooley: Throw Down Your Hammer and Sing and Crackleknob

Clifford Allen By

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Two recent discs featuring trumpeter-composer Nate Wooley explore improvisational language through non-traditional approaches, both collective and solo. Some of that expansion includes electronics and electro-acoustic blur, such as on Throw Down Your Hammer and Sing (joining Wooley with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and bassist Jason Roebke). Unisons and parallels also factor in both of these drummerless trios, as do elements of contemporary "noise" music and effortless swing. Sans electro-acoustic extension, Crackleknob focuses more on extended phrases and fractured interplay. It's the result of four years of collaboration between Wooley, bassist Reuben Radding and guitarist Mary Halvorson.

Nate Wooley/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Jason Roebke
Throw down Your Hammer and Sing

The five improvisations on Throw Down Your Hammer and Sing still retain their attachment to the tools at the players' disposal; split-tones and cagey muted brass are clearly the trumpeter's task, while cutting tenor projection and string bulwarks belong to cello and bass, respectively. The sounds produced are often unfamiliar: high, circular harmonics the ear likens to metal tubing or filtered audio; fluffs and staccato breath, gulps and muffled shrieks approximate rustling papers or peeling tin; forcible assaults of bow on strings (or bridges) at an incremental pace sound like broken gadgetry or a computer glitch. Col legno on the cello's body has a distinctly electric resonance, whether or not it's 'processed.' Toward the close of the excellent "Sans Aluminumius" the trio release their tension into strummed pizzicato, high-pitched cello squall and crackling near-phrases from Wooley's trumpet, a nod to tradition in free music as well as a natural release from the slathered, piercing long-tone dissonance and energized, fuzzy stasis of the preceding ten minutes.

Mary Halvorson/Reuben Radding/Nate Wooley

In a way, the music on Crackleknob might be the more jazz-based of the two discs here and the most composed—even if all ten tracks here are billed as collective improvisations. Muted tones lay a soft ground for Halvorson's distracted flecks in the first half of "The Poor Chew Words to Fill their Stomachs," Radding and Wooley soon getting into a growling tease before a staggered lurch brings the tune home. Though in this context one hears echoes of forebears like Bill Dixon in Wooley's harmonic sense and pure long tones, he is less dusky and sometimes positively playful. On "In the Teeth of Ideology," Halvorson's clunky repeating cells are the base for muscular arco inversions and Wooley's airy improvisation, which alternates rounded vibrato and piercing shrike. Whistles and subtonal hum mix with the guitarist's riti-like scrapes and needling clusters on "Libidinous Objects & the Decay of Self," in circuit-bending scrabble that has much in common with the preceding disc. Each of these recordings presents a highly individual trio and consequently a fresh take on non-idiomatic group music.

Tracks and Personnel

Throw down Your Hammer and Sing

Tracks: Tacones Altos; Sans Aluminumus; Southern Ends of the Earth; Saint Mary; Anywhere, Anyplace at All..

Personnel: Nate Wooley: trumpet; Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello and electronics; Jason Roebke: bass.


Tracks: Under the Weight of Aphorisms; The Poor Chew Words to Fill Their Stomachs; In the Teeth of Ideology; Spoilsports; Libidinous Objects and the Decay of Self; Lakehurst, 1937; Quavering Voices of the Mutilated; In the Applications of Standards; Caldwell, 1925; The Cadence of Her Dying Breath.

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


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