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For the Record: April 16, 2021

Keeping tabs on new recordings of interest to the new-music community, on CD, vinyl LP, cassette, and digital-only formats—including new Wadada Leo Smith sets and an Album of the Week by Nate Wooley.
For the Record: April 16, 2021

For the Record is a weekly round-up of new and pending recordings of interest to the new-music community: contemporary classical music and jazz, electronic and electroacoustic music, and idioms for which no clever genre name has been coined, on CD, vinyl LP,  cassette, digital-only formats… you name it.

This list of release dates is culled from press releases, Amazon, Bandcamp, and other  internet stores and sources, social-media posts,  and online resources such as Discogs.   Dates cited typically correspond to initial U.S. release, and are subject to change. (Links to Amazon, used when all else fails, do not imply endorsement.)

After publication, new listings are incorporated into On the Record: The Master List, a continuously compiled and updated resource exclusively accessible to paying Night After Night subscribers, found here.

These listings are not comprehensive—nor could they be! To submit a forthcoming recording for consideration, email information to nightafternight@icloud.com.

Please note that all opinions expressed herein are solely my own, and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

Wadada Leo Smith, solo and ceremonial

Wadada Leo Smith (Photograph: Petri Haussila)

Wadada Leo Smith, the great improvising trumpeter, composer, bandleader, and philosopher, will mark his 80th birthday on December 18. But the celebration is getting started a whole lot earlier, with numerous substantial concert engagements and CD releases pending. Setting the stage are two three-CD box sets on TUM Records, a Finnish label that has documented some of Smith’s most impressive recent work. Trumpet features three discs of Smith unaccompanied: gorgeous playing beautifully recorded and consistently absorbing. Sacred Ceremonies includes an elemental disc of Smith playing duets with the late percussion shaman Milford Graves, a second disc of cosmic meditations with electric bassist Bill Laswell, and a final disc that brings all three together. (The set’s worth hearing for the deep, resonant recorded sound of Graves’s drumming alone.) Both releases are due on May 21.

Album of the Week

Nate Wooley (Photograph: Steve Smith)

Nate Wooley
Mutual Aid Music
(Pleasure of the Text; CD, DL)

Having grappled for some weeks now with figuring out what to say about this gorgeous new album of collaborative concertos by Nate Wooley, I’ve realized the thing to do is get out of the way and leave describing his conceptual aspiration to him.

In the best moments of improvisation, the complexity of individual musical spontaneity is beyond what I could ever conceive of reproducing on paper. Contemporary notated composition creates complexity on the page, but doesn’t take into account the personal history of the player. So, the question is how to find a way that contains the best of both worlds by embracing both and neither at the same time? I felt that my best hope was the radical spontaneity and empathy of human beings rather than musical tradition, history, and theory.

Original, distinctive modes of conceiving and organizing music – his towering Seven Storey Mountain series, Knknighgh, Columbia Icefield, and more – come to Wooley with seemingly disarming ease. Mutual Aid Music is itself an elaboration upon another Wooley conception, Battle Pieces, which Wooley devised to perform with a quartet of improvisers chiefly associated with the jazz world: himself, saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, and vibraphonist Matt Moran.

Documented on three recordings, Wooley’s Battle Pieces were less a compositional language than a codification of faith and regard. Each involves a soloist improvising freely without a score, while the remaining players form their accompaniment from more than 75 compositions of varying lengths. Title notwithstanding, the project sounds crystalline and contemplative; a sensation of active listening is palpable.

Unhooked from a rhythm section, the Battle Pieces oeuvre even at its most heated inhabits a space that’s been termed chamber jazz. Mutual Aid Music expands the orchestration, adding to the Battle Pieces quartet four players more closely associated with the contemporary-classical world: violinist Joshua Modney, cellist Mariel Roberts, percussionist Russell Greenberg, and (boldly) a second pianist, Cory Smythe. Like their counterparts, these four players are expert readers and skillful improvisers.

“Mutual aid is the primary ethic of an anarchistic utopia in which each knows what they have, is honest about what they need, and is prepared to give and receive accordingly,” Wooley writes in the liner notes for his newest innovation. Each of the eight players – if I’m representing this accurately, which I hope that I am – is provided with a personal concerto for unscripted improvisation, as well as a catalog of small pieces from which to select modes of accompaniment.

What results is a music that partakes of “jazz” and “classical” and “chamber music” and “free improvisation,” while sounding not precisely like any of the aforementioned. The two discs are shot through with beautiful sounds, gracious moments, and the occasional raucous climax. The quarter-tone frisson between the pianists and the complementary innovations of the percussionists provide especially rich details. Every player works at an exceptionally high level, meriting attention and admiration.

The thing that satisfies most about Mutual Aid Music, though, is that it delivers exactly what its title implies: assured serendipity and serendipitous assurance, generous deference and friendly challenge, and a firm feeling that everything played is meant to complement and support everything else that’s played, and everyone who played it.

New This Week

Lea Bertucci (Photograph: Colin Conces)

Lea Bertucci - A Visible Length of Light (Cibachrome Editions)

Angel Bat Dawid - Harkening (Longform Editions)

Michael Gordon - 8 - Cello Octet Amsterdam (Cantaloupe Music)

Erik Griswold - Four Places in Queensland - performances by Erik Griswold, Anna Grinberg, Stephen Emmerson, and Liam Viney (Neuma)

Judith Hamann - Hinterhof (Longform Editions)

Curtis K. Hughes - Tulpa - performances by Aaron Trant, Boston Percussion Group, Amy Advocat, Sentient Robots, Yoko Hagino, Matt Sharrock, and others (New Focus)

Insub Meta Orchestra - Ten/Sync (INSUB)

Eli Keszler - Stadium: Live at the Kitchen (self-released)

Alan Licht - A Symphony Strikes the Moment You Arrive (Room40)

Natural Information Society with Evan Parker - descension (Out of Our Constrictions) (Eremite)

Evan Parker Quartet - All Knavery & Collusion (Cadillac)

Harry Partch - The Bewitched - Harry Partch Ensemble/Danlee Mitchell (Neuma)

Tom Rainey Obbligato - Untucked in Hannover (Intakt)

r beny - we grow in a gleam (Longform Editions)

M. Sage with the Spinnaker Ensemble - The Wind of Things (Geographic North)

Theodore Cale Schafer - It’s Not a Skill, it’s a Curse (Longform Editions)

Irène Schweitzer/Hamid Drake - Celebration (Intakt)

Philip Sulidae - Apāto (Never Anything)

Agnese Toniutti - Subtle Matters - compositions by Lucia Dlugoszewski, Tan Dun, and Philip Corner (Neuma)

Nate Wooley - Mutual Aid Music (Pleasure of the Text)

Just Announced

Susie Ibarra DreamTime Ensemble (Photograph: Asia Society)

April 23

Ping-Chian Chen - Electrocosmia - compositions by Cindy Cox, Pierre Chavet, Elanie Lillios, and Peter Van Zandt Lane (Innova)

Susie Ibarra - Walking on Water - DreamTime Ensemble (Innova)

April 29

Corsano, Maranha & Youngs - Corsano, Maranha & Youngs (Improved Sequence)

Robert Paterson - The Four Seasons - Marnie Breckenridge, Blythe Gaissert, Alok Kumar, David Neal, American Modern Ensemble (American Modern Recordings)

May 7

Treesearch (Keir GoGwilt, Kyle Motl, Nicolee Kuester) - Birdward (577 Records)

May 21

Wadada Leo Smith - Sacred Ceremonies (TUM)

Wadada Leo Smith - Trumpet (TUM)

May 28

Christopher Campbell - Orison - Orison Ensemble (Innova)

Forbes Graham/Jim Hobbs/Tatsuya Nakatani/Victoria Shen - Scar’s the Limit (Tripticks Tapes)

Kenneth Kirschner & Joseph Branciforte - From the Machine: Volume 1 (Greyfade)

Almog Sharvit - Get Up or Cry (Unit Records)