Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

An Especially Epic, Dynamically Conversational New Suite From Nate Wooley

Trumpeter Nate Wooley has put out a toweringly ambitious amount of largescale, highly improvisational work lately, notably his increasingly dark Seven Storey Mountain series. His latest album, Mutual Aid Music – streaming at Bandcamp – continues in that vein, but with a lyricism and often minimalist focus that may take recent listeners by surprise. Wooley asserts himself more melodically here than he’s done in recent years on album. The AACM influence on this epic double-disc set is vast, more so than in practically anything Wooley has written, both in terms of shifting ambience and room for group improvisation. Much as there’s new transparency in this music, it’s for people with long attention spans: every track clocks in at around ten minutes, sometimes more.

As usual, he has a killer supporting cast here: saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, violinist Joshua Modney, cellist Mariel Roberts, pianists Sylvie Courvoisier and Cory Smythe, vibraphonist Matt Moran and percussionist Russell Greenberg,

Wooley’s bracingly haphazard microtones to open the first disc are a false alarm: his resonance, and sputters, and even the occasional squalling peak build a warm lyricism as the group linger and flit in and out of the background, vibraphone and piano piercing the veil. Rapt stillness descends at times, with Modney, Roberts and the piano throwing sparks above the haze, the bandleader exerting a final calm.

Spacious, Wadada Leo Smith-esque call-and-response grows more lively between Wooley and Laubrock as the second number gets underway. Moran is the eerie elephant in this room for awhile, the piano kicking off a galumphing, loopy drive that recedes and then returns with more of a wink and a Brian Jones-style circle of tinkling echoes. That’s got to be Courvoisier at the keys.

Moran and the piano introduce segment number three with a plaintive spaciousness, the horns dragging the rest of the group into a noir morass: this swamp is cold and forbidding and bodies are buried here. The twisted mobile fluttering in the breeze toward the end is the album’s most chilling interlude.

Massed flutters and coy faux backward masked riffs congeal uneasily as piano and sax resist in segment four, and there’s more wry humor in Courvoisier’s under-the-lid rustles and Modney’s sarcastic harmonics. Yet the activity on the high end, notably Moran and Modney, shifts to a a poltergeist atmosphere as the group wind it out.

The second disc opens with a big hit on the gong, Modney shredding, Roberts a whale at play, as a Terry Riley-ish study in hypnotically pulsing highs develops. From there, vast wave-motion surrealism contrasts with squirrelly flickers and thickets overhead.

Part two begins as a music box in a haunted attic, then gremlins – Roberts and the piano – take over, ceding to an echoey shimmer before a more agitated return. Part three shifts from solo neoromantic piano gloom to distant-nebula atmosphere splashed by Greenberg’s gongs, adrift between stars and their dust. The conclusion is about a quarter hour of increasingly dizzying polyrhythmic webs, Wooley a lone sentry as the mist moves in, Modney leaking astringency amid funhouse mirrors, and bustle receding to rapture as it winds out. Even all this is a only a capsule account of the strikingly dynamic, expertly conversational, raptly captivating interplay at work here.

April 17, 2021 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ansambl Mastika’s Second Album is Raw Adrenaline

Combining the raw power of gypsy punk with the precision of jazz, Ansambl Mastika’s new album Songs and Dances for Life NONSTOP is literally the best of both worlds. They call their sound the “new Balkan uproar.” It’s got the same instrumentation as the pop music currently coming out of the Balkans, but without the wanky fusion sound or stiff, robotic, computerized rhythms that plague so much of it. Reedman Greg Squared leads the band on clarinet and tenor sax, with unearthly speed and relentless intensity: his formidable chops obviously draw deeply on legends like Ivo Papasov and Husnu Senlendirici. The rest of the band displays a similar blend of ferocity and virtuosity. Ben Syversen – whose unhinged, assaultive noiserock/jazz album with his band Cracked Vessel was one of 2010’s best – plays trumpet, along with Matthew Fass on accordion, Joey Weisenberg on electric guitar, Reuben Radding on bass and Matt Moran on percussion. These are long songs, typically clocking in at seven minutes or more – more than anything, Ansambl Mastika haven’t forgotten that what they play is dance music.

The opening track, Zurlaski Cocek (a Greg Squared original) sets the stage for what’s to come. It begins with a suspenseful clarinet solo into a long, burning vamp, a triumphant solo from Syversen, and a big reggae-tinged crescendo roaring with bass chords that the clarinet finally launches into whatever’s out there past the stratosphere. They bring it down a little bit afterward with a biting, Cypriot-flavored traditional Greek medley with some interesting flamenco rhythms, stately ambience from Fass and distant menace from the clarinet again. The Turkish-themed march Mahkum Efe is something of an Istanbul street scene through the mist, with a powerfully building trumpet solo from Syversen. And the Slovenian Memede Zlatna Ptica has the feel of a classic, anchored by fat, crescendoing bass and a long, smoldering sax interlude.

A collaboration with the innovative all-female Brooklyn Bulgarian folk choir Black Sea Hotel, Ispukav Poema sets Ruzica Apostolova’s Macedonian lyrics to lushly otherworldly four-part harmonies that soar over a catchy, jangly turbo-folk tune. Nova Zemja is a brilliantly bizarre, eclectic mash-up of surf music, psychedelic rock and Serbian brass with a raga undercurrent: it might be the best song on the album. A dramatic, dark duo of Macedonian songs features some neat harmonies between Greg and Rima Fand (who has an exciting new project setting Frederico Garcia Lorca poems to music); a couple of Turkish numbers veer from wry wah funk to scorching, melisma-driven exhilaration. The album ends with an irrepressible psychedelic rock arrangment (with cautionary English lyrics) of the old folk song Dafina – watch out, the girl’s dangerous! – and a hallucinatory, shapeshifting version of the Greek To Spiti kai o Dromos. All this is as exhilarating as it is eclectic. It may only be February, but right now it’s the frontrunner for best album of 2011. Watch this space and see where it lands in December.

February 11, 2011 Posted by | gypsy music, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment