Nate Wooley – Seven Storey Mountain Part III & IV

During a live improvisation, you can often see trumpeter Nate Wooley, along with his peers and collaborators, explode into an immediate full-fledged cacophony. The rupture at times is enormous and yet transcendent, but shortly into the chaos, you will also often witness Wooley remove his horn from his lips, his eyes closed, standing without moving in what seems like a sudden deep meditation while the other performers continue to noisily trample along toward a collective discovery.

What is Wooley doing?  He’s listening.  He’s allowing the moment to present itself.  And it’s this talent for listening that makes Wooley’s art sound and feel so much more expanded than your typical audio trip.  In Wooley’s playing, much like in his innate personality, he is not quick to speak, nor does he jump to conclusions.  There is a back and forth, an ebb and flow, a constructive conversation that shouldn’t lead to speaking over one another.  There are still happy accidents and satisfying messiness, but all this occurs under a deep consideration for a cohesive final product.

To those already familiar with this signature element of Wooley’s performances, it was no surprise that he would commence such a heavy conceptual series as Seven Storey Mountain, an audible simulation of the experience described by Trappist Monk Thomas Merton in his similarly titled book. In this double disc set featuring parts III and IV, former Mountain collaborators Chris Corsano and C. Spencer Yeh return along with drummer Ryan Sawyer, guitarist David Grubbs, drummer Paul Lytton, vibraphonists Matt Moran and Chris Dingman,  Ben Vida on electronics, and the Tilt Brass Sextet. Although it is unnecessary to mention, I will: this full cast of players elevates the Mountain project to its most profound to date, with a rich range of depth and complexity. And even if you were unaware of the conceptual backdrop to these new installations of the series, the inherent spiritual nature of this free jazz would not be lost. There is an enigmatic power in the thick density of these intense crescendos, the kind that stays with you, like walking through a web.

And what’s all the more satisfying about parts III and IV is that although Wooley has outdone himself, we know he’s only going to top this in the near future, pulling from his infinite, otherworldly, and perhaps even mystical sources.

Note: Nate Wooley will be performing Seven Storey Mountain Part IV tonight at 9:15 pm at Vanderbilt Hall NYU Law as part of Winter Jazz Fest.

– Jared Micah


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