Recommended: Nate Wooley 5tet – “(Sit In) The Throne of Friendship”


Nate Wooley is one of those musicians you should follow, whether you like his music or not.  The guy just has an ear for nifty projects, ones that typically stretch the bounds of music convention and lead to all types of inspiration.  His collaborations read like an avant-garde wing of a Jazz Hall of Fame.  His music comes on strong, but not from straight-ahead; he makes use of all the angles, and he uses his own geometry to form them.  Sometimes the music is formless clouds of electronic dust dispersed with trumpet blasts.  Sometimes the music is an alien form of folk music, generated from strange lands of honest root and soil.  Eventually the music is going to connect with you.  (Sit In) The Throne of Friendship just might be the tipping point.

The album opens with the sonorous melody of “Old Man on the Farm,” constituted of ingredients that might lead to something resembling an anthem were it not for the song’s gradual deconstruction into heavy elements and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the lightness of Moran’s glittering vibe work.

“Make Your Friend Feel Loved” is the clash between Peck’s tuba’s punchy attitude and the long sharp strides of Wooley’s trumpet.  The collision between these opposing forces doesn’t come to an end, but, endearingly, acts in concert to establish a noir-ish groove… eliciting qualities of a bad-ass disposition and an undeniable warmth.  “The Berries” maintains that punchy attitude, but intersperses it with beer hall celebratory statements thrown up to the rafters.

And, really, it’s the way the joyful celebratory facet of this music slips out from the cloud of dissonance that transforms this recording into something more amicable than what often may be perceived as the distant chill that many avant-garde pieces tend to emit.  There is a playfulness to this music that makes strange music comport itself with a personable attitude, rendering the lines of communication far easier for transmission, and allowing easier connections to challenging music.

“The Plow” is a parade march interspersed with brief naps in the middle of the road.  The overlapping call and response of trumpet and bass clarinet spur the procession on, and the bass and drums of Opsvik and Eisenstadt tick off the moments during the restful interludes until it’s time to set out yet again.

“Executive Suites” alternates between flurries of notes and swaying interludes.  Moran’s vibes drive the former and Sinton’s baritone the latter, with Wooley’s trumpet the bridge between the two.

The shifting of tempos from song to song fully reveal their pattern as the album comes to an end.  The ebb and flow becomes increasingly apparent, especially so when viewed through the album’s final songs.  “My Story, My Story” sounds like a moonlight serenade shouted up to an angry sky, an exchange that ends with a final gesture of sweetness.  On the other hand, “Sweet and Sad Consistency” glides with an odd grace, as if a spasmodic individual skating across ice, sometimes moving with an unblemished fluidity, while other times with a stop-and-go action more reminiscent of rush hour traffic than pastoral wintertime scenes of ice skating on frozen ponds.  And then, as if completing the circle of the third of three songs, “A Million Billion BTUs” has a driving tempo that won’t be denied its final crash landing.  Moran’s vibes tap out a dance atop Peck’s surging cadence on tuba while Sinton’s bass clarinet crashes through like a train on fire, for which Wooley is the fire and Eisenstadt the smoke that fills every crevice and warns of more to come.

I am perpetually fascinated with this album.  I’ve been trying to finalize a review of this recording for months and months, yet keep finding new, mesmerizing facets to the music that keep preventing me from making any type of definitive statement about this album, other than… this is the stuff that creativity is meant for.  This is music with vision, and provides imagery that never fully reveals itself, an incompleteness that inspires the listener’s imagination to cooperatively shape the music presented by the artists.  It’s that kind of thing that cements connections in place.

Your album personnel: Nate Wooley (trumpet), Eivind Opsvik (double bass), Matt Moran (vibes), Harris Eisenstadt (drums), Josh Sinton (bass clarinet, baritone sax) and Dan Peck (tuba).

Released on Clean Feed Records.

Listen to more of the album on the artist’s Bandcamp page.

Music from Brooklyn, New York.

Available at:  Bandcamp | Amazon