Home / Arts & Life / Review: Nate Wooley’s Festival Delivers a New, Idiosyncratic Repertoire for Trumpet

Review: Nate Wooley’s Festival Delivers a New, Idiosyncratic Repertoire for Trumpet


From left, Nate Wooley, Christian Wolff, Kristin Norderval and Michael Pisaro performing at Brooklyn’s Issue Project Room on Sept. 30.

Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Inside the experimental realm, Nate Wooley possesses an obvious star quality. The trumpeter can often be heard in his own well-drilled jazz groups or as a guest virtuoso in a classical ensemble. He is also a showman. Mid-song during a solo set, the trumpeter may begin to take his instrument apart in order to develop an idiosyncratic sound.

For all his gifts as an instrumentalist, Mr. Wooley may soon become as well known for his scene-building talents. On Friday and Saturday at Brooklyn’s Issue Project Room, the inaugural shows in Mr. Wooley’s “For/With” series offered two important premieres written for him (and commissioned with money from a recent grant).

Christian Wolff, a composer-performer and onetime John Cage associate, contributed “For Trumpet Player” to Friday’s program. Several of its isolated fragments of melody seemed designed to morph and spin away from the opening motifs, the quicker the better. In this way, the composition recalled some of the mercurial, charming entries in Mr. Wolff’s early series of “Exercises.” But fresh concepts were also in evidence. Aside from short, improvised passages of brassy extended technique, the trumpeter added a touch of swing-feel to select melodic lines — a choice I’ve not heard in past performances of Mr. Wolff’s music, but which sounded natural here.

Saturday’s program included the premiere of Michael Pisaro’s “Stem-Flower-Root,” a half-hour work for trumpet and sine-waves. Mr. Wooley’s playing was less demonstrative in this piece, though no less notable. Toward the end, the trumpeter’s sighing articulations created the impression of a chorus emerging from the piece’s thickest atmospheres of electronic haze.

Both “For/With” shows provided introductions to artists who will be up next in Mr. Wooley’s commissioning series. Ashley Fure’s compositional style was represented on Friday by a striking work for percussion and electronics, “Shiver Lung 2.” Atop two subwoofers that projected a low, sub-audible frequency, the percussionist Ross Karre struck the sound sources with a variety of objects — including chimes, metal chains and his hands. The result was a steady stream of polyrhythms, outfitted with skittering variations of timbral color. (The piece’s approach is related to Ms. Fure’s “The Force of Things: An Opera For Objects,” which has its U.S. premiere in Montclair, New Jersey, this month.)

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