On Sunday night, I had the pleasure of hearing an excellent set by Joe Morris, Nate Wooley, and Dominic Lash at the Douglass Street Music Collective in Brooklyn. Joe and Nate have been working together for a little while now, and the addition of Dominic on bass was a real treat – he traveled all the way from the U.K. for this performance.
The set of three extended improvisations was one of the most balanced and nuanced I’ve heard in a while. All three players are masters at their instruments, but there was never the feeling that any one of them was trying to be the “leader.” Moments where only one instrument was sounding did not come off as a solo but rather as the logical progression of the musical conversation – all but one of the voices in the room die down and that one voice is simply continuing its story.
The music produced was absolutely a sum of its parts. Joe Morris, whose career spans decades, continues to reinvent his own playing as well as the nature of the avant-guitar itself. Impromptu “preparations” – adding an elastic band to the neck, running brass cylinders over the strings – allowed for a widened palate of sound. And the effectiveness of these preparations was owed completely to Mr. Morris’s quick musical intuition. Dominic Lash is the rare bassist who seems completely at home both with and without the bow. An incredibly virtuosic and naturally musical player, he’s someone you must hear the next time he’s in the U.S. (or you’re in Europe). And of course, there’s Nate Wooley. From my perspective as a trumpeter and improviser, it’s easy to see why he’s one of the most in-demand performers of modern improv. The guy has prodigious technique, but he never plays as though he has something to prove (a rare thing indeed to find in a trumpet player). Probably the most impressive thing about Nate is that he can play quietly and really commit to that dynamic. He was always blending into the texture of the group, occasionally peeking out from within.
The trio’s music resembled a kind of modern folk music, with its collective spirit and an overall sound that develops directly from the “act of playing.” It was a truly engaging experience. Let’s hope they make a recording or go on tour sometime in the near future.