Seattle Improvised Music Festival Day 3
February 16th, 2007

Gallery1412, Seattle WA

A week later I am back in Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood for the second weekend of shows in the 22nd annual Seattle Improvised Music Festival. Rainy tonight, but that still doesn’t keep the clusters of smokers from huddleing in front of the venue getting a few smokes in. The second weekend brings a new collection of out of towners along with the locals both new and who had played the week before. Last week the venue was a bit more then half full, a decent crowd but not crowded. Tonight its a capacity crowd and its standing room only in the rear.

Nate Wooley / Jeffrey Allport / Jason E. Anderson
I’m not sure how I had managed to go this long without hearing Nate Wooley but he really impressed with this nights sets. A trumpeter of the Axel Dörner/Greg Kelley school he uses the bare minimal of preparations beyond his trumpet to create a rich vein of sounds.  Allport kicks things off with an eBow on the wires of his snare to which Wooley a small piece of metal a few inches away the bell of his trumpet adds low volume rattles. Now pressing the sheet of metal firmly against the trumpet evoke muffed screeches, Allport begins to manipulate the snare with a variety of objects. First a bow, then  a spring attached to the side of it getting nice sprongy sounds that the drum amplifies, next its cymbals on top of the snare bowed then doweled. Each of these objects he moves through with deliberation adding in the desired sound and then a different one if that is called for.  Anderson again has his sampler plus a microphone and various objects – steel wool, tuning forks and so on. He adds to the proceedings first with samples of static, clicks and pops for a bit and then moves to using the microphone with his objects. The abrasive objects create a lo-fi crunching sound, very textural and subtly industrial. Occasions he uses his sampler for more synth sounds which don’t jell as well but in general he adds a nice electronic counterpoint to the acoustic sounds of his companions. During this Wooley has moved to playing the trumpet without the mouthpiece generating a husky, breathy sound. At another section he blows across the keys of the trumpet with a distorted whisper while Allport creates this beautiful sound with two tuning forks on his drum head that add and beat against each other as they fade away. Occasionally things got pretty dense and almost loud, but usually momentary spikes and not an obvious soft/loud structure. Things get pretty quiet at the end with Allport rubbing the surface of his snare with steel wool, Nate laying out for a while and Jason playing a rhythmic beating tone on the sampler. Allport drops out and only the sample remains which Jason slowly fades out.

Tatsuya Nakatani solo
The next set was two solos, Nakatani on drums and Nate on trumpet. Nakatani had set up a small kit in front of the stage along with a gong and a huge amount of percussion gear. He begins by bowing the gong creating layers and layers of overtones especially as he moves to using two bows on it. He starts adding the occasional hit on the kick drum which is akin to a clap of thunder amidst the white noise of rain. He gradually increases these until it becomes a pulse through the layers of sound from the bowed gong. With an especially aggresive thump on the kick drum he ends the bowing of the gong and begins a rapid erratic tattoo on the kick drum. Then he sets a bunch of  brass bowls on his floor tom and hits them, shakes the drum and creates rattles, bongs and bell like tones. He manipulates the bowls in a variety of ways including rubbing them, tapping them and hitting them with drum sticks. This becomes increasing aggressive, chaotic and loud as they hit each other and fall onto the cement floor. Eventually they have all rattled off and he moves on to actual drumming albeit in a stilted angular way. This slowly grinds to a near halt and then with just the pulse from the kick drum he returns to bowing the gong, which he slows down, down until a single hovering sound ends his set to massive applause.

Nate Wooley solo
In complete contrast to Nakatani’s set Nate sat on stage with just his trumpet and a couple of muting objects. He worked with sparse sounds, space and subtly. He begins this ticking sound, almost like a record spinning with the needle on the edge of the recording, regular and spaced out. After a while he then moves on to a breathy sounds, very quiet and subtly varied. Eventually he increases the volume and one jaw dropping section he created this wash of sound that can only be compared to a radio tuned between channels with the sounds of a signal fading in and out. This drops out and the ticking sound returns, erratic and quiet again. Then tones, long and layered but not overly loud and interspersed with the ticking sound. A gap, a minute or two without playing and then soft sounds, that get louder and louder and stops with him thanking us for listening.

Andrea Neumann / Gust Burns / Nate Wooley / Jeffrey Allport
I was really looking forward to this quartet, especially after seeing Nate play today, and it exceeded my expectations. Brilliantly varied and subtle music that rewarded close listening.  Nate and Jeffery played their same instruments as before, Gust played inside piano and Andrea her piano guts and electronics. The lights dim and Andrea begins with his some low humming sounds from her exposed piano strings, to which Jeffrey pretty quickly joins in rubbing the surface of his snare. Gust and Nate lay out for a good piece which Gust finally breaks with a rubbed dowel in the bass strings in the piano. This creates a low, growly very rough scrapping sound and at this point Nate also joins in with a thin breathy sound that is barely heard. The piece is rife with silences and near silences, tensions as nearly everyone lays out and it seems that they are about to end but then someone brings it back to life. A bit into it Gust flips over his snare, as deliberatly and quietly as possible, but allowing the sounds in as they come. After this procedure he begins to use the snare wires in various ways, with the eBow creating a rattly drone and now Gust is dragging a rubber mallet across the piano string which emit long moans. Things get denser and louder, Allport now dowling a cymbal on top of the snare wires which is much louder then I would have thought. Burns moves to rubbing dowels in the higher registers adding contrasting higher pitched tones and Nate with his sheet metal in front of the trumpet bell adds in loud rattles and short blasts of sound. Andrea in all of this adds in washing of sounds, plucked notes on his piano guts and electronic detritus. Toward the end things quiet down allowing a cell phone to add its song to the general atmosphere. Then Gust is playing his piano heavily damped but with the actual keys and Andrea plucks single notes on her instrument. This goes on for a bit, sparse, very intermittent and then it concludes. An excellent way to end a very nice collaboration.

(for Richard and Alastair – Andrea was wearing Dark grey slacks and a long sleeved T-shirt that read “Dig/Feed/Shit” on the front)