November 8, 2004
__ is an apparition
Rossbin RS 016
Tatsuya Nakatanis irregular percussion pulse is what holds these two trio sessions together. Yet the skills of the Japanese-born, South Bronx, N.Y.-based improviser and sound artist merely underline the objectives of the two hornmen with whom hes associated on either CDs.
Firmly committed to microtonal improv, saxophonists Michel Doneda and Jack Wright on FROM BETWEEN and brassmen Nate Wooley and Steve Swell on _IS AN APPARATION express themselves in non-linear sound pictures in such a way that not only Free Jazz, but electronics — albeit without electronic instruments — are referenced. This far into the 21st century, both duos make their point succinctly. But Wooley/Swell/ Nakatanis band Blue Collar is more novel, since the brassmen create with three valves each, while sopranino and soprano saxophonist Doneda and soprano and alto saxophonist Wright do so with a multiplicity of manipulated keys.
Oregon-born, New York-based Wooleys experience encompasses work with saxophonist Assif Tsahars big bands and combo work with Denvers Fred Hess and easterners Andrew DAngelo and Wright, who is featured on FROM BETWEEN. On this CD though, Wooley utilizes the trumpet not as a brass instrument, but as a sound source, moving into the area explored by Bostons Greg Kelley and Berlins Axel Dörner.
More surprising is the presence of Swell, one of the most accomplished New York bone man, usually found applying modern gutbuck smears in the Free Jazz bands of bassist William Parker and saxist Sabir Mateen, among many others. Here he proves that the intricacies of circular breathing and split-second flutter tonguing are part and parcel of his repertoire.
On the almost 13-minute , the longest and most abstract track, the percussionists work seems more upfront since its a good five minutes before the first brass smears appear. Before that the two hornmen have confined themselves to bubbling bell motions plus the clatter and scrape of valves being loosened. Eventually Swell turns to foreshortened slide positions, while Wooley flutter-tongues and squeezes tones until both combine for a single line, decorating it with vocalized back of the throat grainy mumbles and mouthpiece thumps.
Nakatanis gentle pings give way to elongated drumstick scratches on cymbal tops in  and a constant cowbell smack that sounds as if hes playing the intro to Mississippi Queen at one-tenth its speed on . The former sounds as if its produced by one electronically tinged instrument, where echoing — and watery — buzzing from the cymbals resound are followed by the oscillating pressure of carefully emphasized brass timbres. The latter finds the brass tones divided among the patting of bass drum and cymbals, with the trombonist turning chromatic plunger tones into a tugboat honk and the trumpeter producing a mosquito-like drone.
Percussion outlay includes gong reverberation, spinning ratchets, drum thunder and times when Nakatani seems to be creating extra colors by either rubbing a washboard or loosening the screws and connections on his kit. Similarly the brass inventory features the men blowing nothing but colored air through the bell, wordless growls and hollers, middle of the horn blats and snarls, mouthpiece kisses, sluicing plunger tones and pedal point blows.
Every technique appears to be on show on , as prestissimo snarls and circular breathed whispers from the trumpet meet basso watery blasts from the trombonist. As emphasized triplets and half-valve effects appear from both, the percussionist rattles flams and bounces, strokes his sets of bells and produces ruffs from his snare. When Swell uses his plunger to exact bass notes and Wooley trills rubato on top, Nakatani strikes his cymbal with wire brush and repeatedly resonates a large gong.
A more familiar grouping of reeds and percussion, FROM BETWEEN highlights the increasing internationalism of Free Music. Theres the Japanese-born Nakatani and Easton, Penn.-resident Wright, who has concentrated on the saxophone after a time in academe and in revolutionary politics. Besides Wooley, he has played with Dörner, British bassist Tony Wren and toured the U.S. with Doneda in 2003. Toulouse-based Doneda is a self-taught musician, whose improvising partners include American saxist Bhob Rainey, French percussionist Lê Quan Ninh, dancers, poets and actors.
Another session that offers up electronic-like sounds with acoustic instruments, this CDs major piece is also its first track. More than 30½-minutes long hands behind hands features the saxophonists exploring every tint of the reed color wheel as the percussionist provides a restrained canvas for their aural brush strokes.
Beginning with bubbling raspberries and glottal stops from the saxes, sawing tones from a drumstick on cymbals gradually presage a shrill squeezed tone from sopranino, languidly expelled air, an occasional honk and elongated chirrups. As Nakatani feeds irregular hollow thwacks and gamelan-like cymbal hits to the others, the reedman turn to squealing higher pitched oscillations that then break up into click-clanking bumps, wavering slurs and tongue stops. Before Wright finishes with extended fog horn timbres, his tones sound as if theyre coming from a comb and tissue paper kazoo. Meanwhile, Doneda produces short, jagged squeaks. Small animal reverberations from the sopranino turn to flutter-tongued single tones as the sopranoist blows colored air through his horn. Finally the drummer counters reed mouse peeping with what sounds like a top spinning in the studio.
Then, one reedists split-tone harmonies combine with the others police-whistle shrills for quivering unison tones that come in and out of focus. Following an extensive period of circular breathing from both horns, one continues to resonate curved tones while the other produces more strident trilled notes. Eventually the joined tones start to resemble sine wave electronics or perhaps ponticello strings.
Faster and more abrasive, the two shorter pieces that follow offer more of the same atonalism, with tongue slaps, French kissed reeds, minute sax whoops, snorts, barks, feral murmurs and mumbled flutter tonguing. More inhibited than with the two brassmen, Nakatanis quirky accompaniment includes tam tam-like single colored tones and chime resonation. Only in a couple of instances does he use ear splitting multi-hued screeches that result from the drag of a drumstick on a cymbal top.
As an aside, the CD must have the least visually friendly wrapping of any contemporary CD. Packaged in fine, dark cardboard, details are embossed on the black paper and are difficult to make out without eyestrain.
Despite this visual affront, the sounds on this CD and the other are more examples of steadily evolving free music. They can and should be appreciated for unvarnished veracity.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: between: 1. hands behind hands 2. of pipes and roots 3. ... open this surface to clouds
Personnel: between: Michel Doneda (sopranino and soprano saxophones); Jack Wright (soprano and alto saxophones); Tatsuya Nakatani (percussion)
Track Listing: apparition: 1.  2.  3.  4.  5.  6.  7.  8. 
Personnel: apparition: Nate Wooley (trumpet, voice); (Steve Swell, trombone, voice); Tatsuya Nakatani (percussion)