Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Antunes, Wooley and Corsano: Malus (No Business, 2014)

Unfortunately due to a very busy timetable this one has been sitting on my computer for the past few months, however, as they say, better late than never! Malus released by the excellent NoBusiness Records is the first record from the trio of Chris Corsano, Hugo Antunes and Nate Wooley. The trio have been working together for the past few years, and, from the sound of this record, hopefully they'll become a permanent working unit. The music made by the group is something special, using a variety of techniques to create a captivating collection of pieces ranging from dynamic rubato melodic improvisations to more abstract musical outings.

The album's strength is probably its varied approaches to the trio format, which the group explores from all angles. Although the trios sound is the main back-bone of the record, there are two pieces which are built from duo improvisations, and a third piece which showcases the group in an unusual format as an amplifier trio! But the music as a whole is beautifully paced throughout, often leaving plenty of space, both sound wise and musically, giving us a chance to discover details in each of the pieces. The crystal clear sound also helps making the record a joy to listen to, especially as on this recording you are able to hear each instruments individual timbres, due to the excellent work of sound man/wizard Michel Huon (who deserves a credit). 

As for the pieces on the record.... Gentlemen Of Four Outs (tk1), is an energy powered improvisation showing how the trio can combine melody and rhythm in a completely fluid way. 4 Cornered (tk2) continues in the same direction, introducing more abstract ideas and techniques, many of which are developed throughout the record. On this track, by creating space, the trio gives us a chance to really hear the developing process of building an improvisation. This continues on Sawbuck (tk3), the first of the duo pieces - bass and drums. Antunes and Corsano's use of bows at the beginning probably inspired the title (?), but the duo gradually works into a more rounded sound.

The intriguing Seven Miles From The Moon builds from a single bass note, developing gradually into an delightful palette of sound colours. At the start of this piece Nate Wooley uses his trumpet as a percussion instrument, digging into his bag of sound effects to combine with the bass and drums. The trio's work on this piece shows exactly how well they manage to combine ideas without overcrowding each other playing.  

Sandbagged (tk5) continues the duo idea, this time for bass and trumpet. Both players rely on the staccato possibilities of their individual instruments, developing a conversational idea sounding not unlike two birds in a tree. Sewn (tk6) shows the group working with amplifiers, a technique which Wooley has been developing as a musical colour for the past few years. Here, the whole group delves into this sonic landscape to conjure up a distorted wall of sound, bluring the individual edges of each instrument, in a way that makes the music become an impressionist painting.

The last track Gentlemen of Three Inns (tk7) brings us back to the world of pure acoustic sound. Hugo Antunes's crystal clear bass lines opens the track before being joined by Nate Wooley and Chris Corsano. This is again a piece that uses melody as its central idea, Wooley using his muted trumpet in a way that gives the trios sound an intimate feel, not unlike Jimmy Giuffre's late trio sound - with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow.    

This is one of those records that deserves being heard by as many people as possible, and especially those who think of 'free-jazz' as something unlistenable. Its also a fine example of three musicians listening to each other, making music that is truly the sum of three individuals who combine together to produce a music which although probably not ground breaking, remains fresh, inventive and very listenable.

Highly recommended! 

Musicians: Nate Wooley - trumpet, amplifier; Hugo Antunes - double bass; amplifier and Chris Corsano - drums, amplifier (track 6).

* I'd normally put a little excerpt for (or video) to give an idea of the music. However, if you pop over to the NoBusiness site you'll be able to hear some samples of the music on the record company's website.  

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