Label: Intakt Records, 2018
Personnel - Ken Vandermark: saxophone, clarinet; Nate Wooley: trumpet; Sylvie Courvoisier: piano; Tom Rainey: drums.
Noise of Our Time is the debut album by VWCR, a recently formed quartet with some of the most formidable avant-gardists out there – the notably articulated Ken Vandermark on saxophone and clarinet, the enigmatic Nate Wooley on trumpet, the captivating Sylvie Courvoisier on piano, and the trustworthy Tom Rainey on drums. With the exception of the latter, each member brought three compositions to the recording.
The band’s creative vein and improvisational flair are immediately felt on Courvoisier’s “Check Point”, which prompts Vandermark to embark on wild activity, having patterned melodic conductions running underneath. When Wooley steps ahead, he is offered wonderful support by the nonpareil bass-less rhythm team.
Vandermark’s “Track and Field” comes to life in a brooding, droning legato. An apparent erratic direction leads to consistent horn counterpoint, prepared piano attacks, and mind-boggling pulses from Rainey’s quirkily tuned drums. Although the piano work is crucial here, none of the musicians claim the center because they are already there, contributing with their own insight. The tune ends with sparse drum beats counterpointing compulsive horn accents.
“Sparks” is one of my favorite pieces and a brilliant invention from Courvoisier’s musical mind. It features bright unisons, intersecting improvisations, and synchronized movements loaded with elegance and playfulness.
The vital flame that envelops “Tag” is initially lit by Rainey’s skittering tom-toms and cymbal work, but then the spotlight rotates, firstly concentrating on Vandermark, who blows out deft phrases with extraordinary intensity, then on Courvoisier, always edgy without losing that soft gliding appeal, and finally Wooley, whose abstract impromptu incorporates sketchy lines and terse remarks. The trumpeter wrote “Songs Of Innocence” with nearly philosophical sagacity, creating a fascinating framework where the suspenseful and the dreamy combine. The mood is perfect for Vandermark’s fast rides on clarinet, having a more serene Wooley contributing to the continual energy flow.
Despite the silences and fragmented phrasing, “Truth Through Mass Individuation” is rich in tonal colors. It has something impulsive in its ways, spilling out a panoply of musical figures that dance either in frictional counterpoint or amiable partnership. If Rainey’s snare activity marches on with rattling effervescence here, then on “Simple Cut”, the divergent yet fittingly accomplished closing track, he adopts a low-key posture, a circumstantial condition shared by his bandmates.
Traversing challenging paths together and exploring them with distinctive class, these four experienced players are at the peak of their powers in an unmissable avant-jazz session to revisit many times.
03 - Sparks ► 05 - Tag ► 06 - Songs of Innocence