Nate Wooley is the preeminent trumpeter of our generation, perhaps because his playing seems adaptable to any situation. From tightly composed works to the most far out free improvisation, he always has something interesting to say. STEM, his new recording with RED trio (pianist Rodrigo Pinheiro, bassist Hernan Faustino, and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini) was recorded less than a year after their initial meeting and on record they sound inspired and engaging, their chemistry defying their lack of history together.
"Flapping Flight " opens with spirited trumpet runs that reference the combined vocabulary of the greats while sounding unlike any of them. RED Trio push and pull the music around Wooley's blowing until it eventually slows into a lulling passage, punctuated with tinkling piano and drum harmonics. The tune continues further into dirge territory with scuttling percussion, while Wooley's muted tones mesh with bowed bass. He then signals the end with what seems to be a quote of Herbie Hancock's "Riot" as the group once again congeals into a frenetic unit and slowly breaks down the song structure, ending the piece as it began in fragmented dialogue.
"Phase" begins heavy on the percussive chatter. Bass and drums interact with piano chords suspended in mid air, and underneath, Wooley is barely letting the air though the mouth piece, sounding like the first sputtering of a steam radiator in winter. The pace is picked up, but Wooley stays in the embouchure conscious zone of expression, occasionally letting out a low foghorn or high screech. Wooley's mouthpiece seems to be every bit as important to him as the bell and valves. This is a man that has spent some time exploring his horn.
"Ellipse" hardly moves at all, instead choosing to ooze out sound events in moody succession. The fourth track, "Weight Slice" is more action-packed with a drums/trumpet duo exchange that brings some truly rambunctious improvising to fruition. Wooley breaths bent multiphonics that seem to grow hair as they lengthen, sounding a bit like Donald Ayler. Finally, "Tides" could be a summation of the previous tracks: a trio+1 of experienced improvisers expertly doing their thing. It's thoughtful and precise, a controlled anarchy, if you will. This LP is rich on texture, and although RED+Nate Wooley have a studied feel about them, it's a fresh and exhilarating listen.
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