December 9, 2007
Absinth Records aR 010
Chris Forsyth & Nate Wooley
The Duchess of Oysterville
Creative Sources CS 087 CD
Extreme Records XCD-058
Reinterpretation of instruments’ roles and timbres arises for different musicians in different places at different times. Additionally, not every player reconfigures his or her instrument and playing style in the same way. These factors have to be weighed in order to appreciate these solo trumpet (and etc.) sessions from three different continents.
For the past few years German trumpeter Axel Dörner has been involved with dissecting brass textures in his improv-oriented work; and Sind is a further refinement of that. Other brass explorers include Austrian Franz Hautzinger, Argentinean Leonel Kaplan plus Greg Kelley and Nate Wooley of the United States. Wooley, who like Dörner, also plays in more conventional settings, teams up with long-time associate guitarist Chris Forsyth for one brief (fewer than 25 minute) out-of-the-ordinary improv on The Duchess of Oysterville.
While Dörner and Wooley divide their experimental/conventional persona, Scott Tinkler, on the other hand, is a renegade mainstreamer. An award-winning Australian jazz trumpeter who has recorded and toured with such bands as Mark Simmons Freeboppers, Tinkler moves past his comfort level on Backwards, his first real-time, all -solo improvised session.
Although he also utilizes textures resulting from the interaction of his trumpet individually with a piano, a cymbal, a bass drum and a bucket of water; his antipodean date is the most conventional of the three CDs here. While the German and the America brass men have decided to use their trumpets as non-specific instrumental sound- generators, Tinkler is still incontrovertibly a trumpeter, with his three three-valve instrument a vehicle for solo jazz improvisation. The contrast is striking.
For instance on “Crank”, the Australian turns extended metallic whines and single brass bites into bel canto harmonics that use brassy triplets and grace notes to show off the instrument’s textural scope. This may be an impressive display of trumpeting, but how dissimilar is it to the showy displays of earlier high note specialists like Maynard Ferguson?
Similarly, Tinkler often uses octave jumps, braying tones and fluttering muted grace notes to measure chromatic progressions and to create two – or more – streams of sounds. Frequently they’re also Bizarro replications of the primary tone; other times they’re pinched, gravelly honks. But throughout the disc there’s never a doubt that what’s on show – and being commented on – is a trumpet’s extreme timbral range.
Perhaps Tinkler’s most successful sonic foray is “String Theory”, where he breaths tones onto a piano’s strings and manipulates the resulting vibrations with pedal pressure that amplifies and extends the horn notes. While hand-muted cadenzas and higher-pitched pig-like squeals are aurally reflected back as through a blurry mirror, this reflective trope isn’t new. Wallowing in faux plunger tones may be novel for a freebopper, but like Wallace Roney copping a Freddie Hubbard lick, Tinkler is actually solidifying rather than extending already existing brass properties.
Unique textures do arise from Wooley’s variations however. The Duchess of Oysterville involves hooking up barely-there breaths and ventilated squeaks with the disassociated oscillations and crinkling, interrupted current flow of Forsyth’s guitar. Throughout the entire piece an unidentified rhythmic tapping – is it the guitarist’s foot; the trumpeter’s palm? – is heard, yet it’s merely one of the sonic undercurrents. Elsewhere, for instance, a timbre could be ring modulator manipulation only to eventually reveal itself as the friction arising from harsh guitar-string strums. Then as Forsyth brushes the same strings, chromatic tongue-slapping echoing from the trumpet’s lead pipe and bell is heard as its counterpart. Ratcheting friction of breath against metal is another of Wooley’s motifs as is valve-depression. Meanwhile, the duo’s pronounced electronic signal pulsation, interrupted by mouth pops and short tonal vibrations lead to buzzing polyphonic layering. The CD’s climax: a single string stroke and amp waver.
If evaluating Backwards alongside The Duchess of Oysterville is a bit like comparing apples and oranges and apples, than consider what sort of exotic fruit Sind must be. Dörner’s more-than-63-minute magnum opus involves 22 identically named tracks, which range in length from more than 5½ minutes down to nine seconds and are designed to be played in any order. The clincher: five are completely silent.
A long-time sonic explorer, Berlin-based Dörner takes affiliated breaths and creates watery bubbling without utilizing additional props. On a later track, internal sewer-like sounds echo from inside the metal tube out of the bell. Soon an auxiliary whistle adds to the tremolo action, almost as if a blurry electronic output has been triggered.
Using circular breathing, rubato breaths continuously sound, while a single blow through the lead pipe produces the approximation of a dog whine that echoes back and forth, then fades away. The rhythmic undercurrent of Forsyth and Wooley is replicated as well in one episode where Dörner appears to be hitting the instrument with his palm while simultaneously expelling air. Not that air has to be expelled however. Another track features nose intakes that create kazoo-like blats.
Among the dense flanged pulsations and balloon-like deflations, growling buzz-saw pitches and blurry flutters are also heard. Rolling capillary tones pulsate and oscillate so that a vibration similar to that produced when a seashell is held against the ear is revealed. But this particular reverie ends with the added fillip of a concentrated Bronx cheer.
Despite all this – and his determined yet fanciful transformation of a brass instrument into a singular sound source – at one point Dörner confirms the trumpet’s identity. After an episode of basso rumbling and high-pitched peeps, he suddenly corkscrews out both a recognizable tongue flutter and a melodic phrase that could only come from a brass instrument.
Those interested in hearing a fine trumpeter showcase his command of the instrument can find much to praise in Backwards, which in retrospect may be an unfortunate title choice. Those fascinated by the potential forward motion of brass instruments may prefer Sind and/or The Duchess of Oysterville.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Sind: 1. 1≤n≤22 (03.09) 2. 1≤n≤22 (05.36) 3. 1≤n≤22 (04.22) 4. .1≤n≤22 (02.06) 5. 1≤n≤22 (03.12) 6. 1≤n≤22 (03.30) 7. 1≤n≤22 (02.42) 8. 1≤n≤22 (02.07) 9. 1≤n≤22 (01.53) 10. 1≤n≤22 (04.39) 11. 1≤n≤22 (01.16) 12. 1≤n≤22 (00.09) 13. 1≤n≤22 (04.04) 14. 1≤n≤22 (02.04) 15. 1≤n≤22 (05.30) 16. 1≤n≤22 (00.33) 17. 1≤n≤22 (02.28) 18. 1≤n≤22 (00.32) 19. 1≤n≤22 (01.44) 20. 1≤n≤22 (03.52) 21. 1≤n≤22 (02.09) 22. 1≤n≤22 (05.18)
Personnel: Sind: Axel Dörner (trumpet)
Track Listing: Duchess: 1. The Duchess Of Oysterville
Personnel: Duchess: Nate Wooley (trumpet) and Chris Forsyth (guitar)
Track Listing: Backwards: 1. Duet for Fingers and Bell End 2. Crank 3. Let 4. Slam it down Fast to be a Solo Man 5. Intercontinental Trumpet Fantasy 6. Grand Casa 7. The New Forwards 8. String Theory
Personnel: Backwards: Scott Tinkler (trumpet)