Although titularly a trumpet festival, New York's FONT (Festival of New Trumpet) presented a handful of subtly inventive percussionists during its two-week run at the end of September, 2007. Sean Meehan and Tatsuya Nakatani each played on the penultimate afternoon, both working with drums more as resonating chambers than beat boxes and both arguably following in the Paul Lytton tradition. And to close the festival FONT presented Lytton himself, in a duo with another quietly creative player, trumpeter Nate Wooley, some twenty-seven years his junior. But where Meehan, Nakatani and Wooley represent different aspects of a new generation of improvised music as audio art, often incorporating an austere stillness into their work, Lytton is from the clangorous cabinet of the old school, generally playing with a clutter of objectswater bottle, flour sifter, wooden blocksstacked on and around his kit.
But Lytton and Wooley share an interest in sound-of-itself, resisting neither the urge toward momentum nor necessarily the impulse toward climax. Their duo recording is a fleeting attack against the senses, a finely-honed twenty-six minutes ranging from small, close-mic'd movements to a mouse fight in the utility drawer.
The amount of detail is remarkablesomething they lost during the September 30th concert at Abrons Arts Center at the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side. The relatively dead room left much of Wooley's intricacies lost in the mix during their duet. The second half of the concert added David Grubbs on harmonium for "The Seven Storey Mountain, a composition by Wooley built around field recordings made in Jersey City. Here, again, the bass eclipsed the treble and the low rumble of the backing track overwhelmed the live musicians,muddying an otherwise interesting piece of music that would benefit from the same studio treatment that the duo received.