Tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Ken Vandermark, trumpeter Nate Wooley, pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and Tom Rainey, peripatetic explorers of their instruments in space and time fortuitously – we are told – come together on Noise of our Time to voice their musical reactions in, among other things, in reaction to the time and space in which we all live. It is, as we often tell ourselves, a telling reflection of what the avant-garde of 1960’s African American Jazz musicians such as the Association of Advancement of Creative Music and the Art Ensemble of Chicago (among others) who were saying at that time: “This is Our Music.” In reality the African American Jazz musician From Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington to Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus have always said: “This is OUR music.”.
And so does this quartet, who also add – as they have always done in many settings – that tradition is a wonderful reality, but not understanding that the inner dynamic of tradition is always to innovate and not to do so is to be locked in a prison. Each of the musicians have done so every time they pick up their instruments and play; not always together, so that in this four-way conversation they now have a chance to relocated their singular artistry to a unified vision: and what it produces is a luminous musical session. The instinctive radicalism of each of the musicians is evident as they jump into the first chart provided by Sylvie Courvoisier entitled “Checkpoint”. From there on the individual musicians through interweaving soli and ensemble playing completely take apart conventional modes of musical interaction in each of nine compositions. Familiar strains of harmonic reaction to melodic suggestions are puréed not only by brass and reeds and/or winds, but by piano and drums as in “The Space Between the Teeth” where sublime gestures turn into agitated ticking motor rhythms.
The tension is palpable throughout the session and the emotional wind-up continues unabated for three-quarters of an hour with music that is vivid in its tone colours, yet disturbing in its intent and bitingly sardonic in its intent (note “Songs of Innocence” where Mr Wooley takes a swipe – in a manner of speaking, of course – at the prophetic works of legendary poet and engraver, William Blake). But just when you think that all is doom and gloom the music makes a brilliant and tender volte-face on the final selection, entitled ”Simple Cut”. In each of the musicians’ response to Mr Vandermark’s written suggestions definitions of “beauty” are once again reexamined. And yet, again, there is palpable distinction between the overly perfumed, listener-ingratiating beauty typical of commercially prepared, so-called “experimental” music. For here too beauty is expressed in the German word Geräusch – meaning noise, but in the sense of the rustling of breath upon lips and skin upon skin as bodies caress. Perhaps the suggestion is a human and not just a musical one: “Let’s keep it close and more human amid all the noise,” this music seems to say.
Track list – 1: Checkpoint; 2: Track and Field; 3: Sparks; 4: The Space Between the Teeth; 5: Tag; 6: Songs of Innocence; 7: VWCR; 8: Truth Through Mass Individuation; 9: Simple Cut
Personnel – Ken Vandermark: tenor saxophone and clarinet; Nate Wooley: trumpet; Sylvie Courvoisier: piano;Tom Rainey: drums
Released – 2018
Label – Intakt Records (Intakt CD 310)
Runtime – 45:59