Ken Vandermark-Nate Wooley Duo Record Released Today!


Audiographic Records and Pleasure of the Text are pleased to announce the dual release of the debut record of the Ken Vandermark/Nate Wooley duo, entitled East By Northwest. The record was released on December 20, 2014 and is the culmination of a year of performances throughout the US. East By Northwest was recorded live at Okka Fest in Milwaukee in 2014 and captures the duo’s fire and freewheeling approach to the often overlooked duo pairing of reeds and brass. The CD is available through and

Chicago saxophonist and composer Ken Vandermark, and New York trumpet stalwart Nate Wooley, have been operating in each other’s orbits for the past five years. For this project, they work with each other’s iconoclastic compositional and improvisational vocabularies.  Taking their cues from the underappreciated work of John Carter and Bobby Bradford, Vandermark and Wooley work together to create an organic combination of jazz tradition, free improvisation, and modern composition in this new raw and intimate duo.

A fixture on the Chicago-area music scene since the 1990s, Ken Vandermark has earned wide critical praise for his playing and his multilayered compositions, which typically balance intricate orchestration with passionate improvisation. He has led or been a member of many groups, has collaborated with many other musicians, and was awarded a 1999 MacArthur Fellowship. He plays tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet and baritone saxophone.

Nate Wooley’s solo playing has often been cited as being a part of an international revolution in improvised trumpet. In the past three years, Wooley has been gathering international acclaim for his idiosyncratic trumpet language.  Time Out New York has called him “an iconoclastic trumpeter”, and Downbeat’s Jazz Musician of the Year, Dave Douglas has said, “Nate Wooley is one of the most interesting and unusual trumpet players living today, and that is without hyperbole”.

Thanks to All of the Readers in 2014

I would like to thank all of the readers who have visited the site in 2014. The internet traffic to Jazz Right Now nearly tripled this year. I have worked tirelessly to make this the first stop for anyone interested in the creative music scene in Brooklyn and greater New York City. This year, I added hundreds of videos, published 20 interviews, and reviewed 15 records and a number of live concerts.

While this site is focused on the Brooklyn creative music/avant jazz scene, approximately 30% of the readers are from outside the United States. I would like to extend a special welcome and thanks to readers in Germany, Canada, the UK, Italy, Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Ireland, Belgium, Portugal, Poland, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, Argentina, Austria, Lithuania, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Norway, the Philippines, Mexico, and many other countries. I hope you will continue to visit the website. And of course, thank you to all of the daily American readers who have made the site a success. I wish everyone a great holiday season and the best possible 2015!

–Cisco Bradley, December 16, 2014

New This Week / December 15, 2014

Best Albums of 2014



New Band Pages


Playlist for Week of December 8, 2014

  • Matt Nelson – Lower Bottoms (Tubapede, 2014)
  • Travis Laplante’s Battle Trance – Palace of Wind (NNA Tapes, 2014)
  • Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio & Peter Evans – Live in Lisbon (No Business, 2014)
  • Tyshawn Sorey – Alloy (Pi, 2014)
  • VAX – Count to VAX (self-released, 2014) [vinyl]
  • Jesse Stacken – Helleborus (Fresh Sound, 2014)
  • Taylor Ho Bynum – Navigation (Firehouse 12, 2014) [vinyl]

December Artist Feature: Bassist Max Johnson

(photo by Scott Friedlander)

(photo by Scott Friedlander)

Max Johnson is one of the most active young bassists on the Brooklyn scene. He has played in a number of different genres with a great number of musicians and at the age of just 24, he has already released five records under his own name. In 2014 alone, he released the second record by his trio, one from his project The Prisoner, and a third as co-leader of the band Big Eyed Rabbit.

Later this month, Johnson has a three-day residency at Ibeam, where he will be unveiling music for his third trio record to be recorded and released in 2015. The band features cornestist Kirk Knuffke and drummer Ziv Ravitz. Each night of the residency will also feature guest appearances by other artists.

Residency Schedule

December 18 (Thursday)

8:30 pm: Max Johnson Trio

10 pm: Max Johnson Trio with Ben Goldberg (clarinet)

December 19 (Friday)

8:30 pm: Max Johnson Trio

10 pm: Max Johnson Trio with Steve Swell (trombone)

December 20 (Saturday)

8:30 pm: Max Johnson Trio

10 pm: Max Johnson Trio with John O’Gallagher (alto sax) and Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax)

Johnson will also be performing on December 26 at the Stone with the band Sadhana, which includes Vincent Chancey (French horn) and Jeremy Carlstedt (drums) as part of the Will Connell tribute week.

Interview with Max Johnson

Cisco Bradley: What was your vision when you began writing the new book of music for your trio?

Max Johnson: I wouldn’t categorize it as a vision, or even much of a thought.  My idea with the trio was always to have simple music that is clear in it’s intention, and leave a lot of room for us to be super loose with it.  So this collection of pieces are from over the past year, where I would think of an idea, and write it down as a piece for the trio.  And I’m only now collecting all of them together, and over the course of the residency, we’ll get to really dive into everything and explore what we can do with it.

CB: What specific reasons did you have for inviting each of the special guests to play with your trio during your residency?

MJ: I did a residency at Ibeam a little over 2 years ago with Weasel Walter where we had different special guests every night, and I really like the idea of having something that’s constant, and then throwing in different ingredients to shake things up.  I wrote a set of music for the trio + 2 saxophones, played by Michael Attias and Ingrid Laubrock, which we’ve played twice so far (although I have more music prepared this time around), and that’s the instrumentation for the 20th (with the addition of the wonderful John O’Gallagher, as Michael is out of the country).  I only recently met and played with Ben Goldberg, having been a fan of his for some years, and I thought that his sound and aesthetic would work incredibly well with the trio, so I asked him.  Steve Swell is one my favorite musicians, period, and one of the first people I started playing with in New York.  He’s actually sat in with the trio once before about 2 years ago, and so I invited him to play again, adding his unique sound to the group.

CB: It’s impressive that you are getting ready to release a third album with your trio in such a short amount of time. What can you say about how much the band has progressed since its formation?

MJ: I don’t know about impressive, it may be more eager or crazy, but I feel that the more the band plays, the deeper we get into our “thing”.  Which would be hard for me to describe, but there’s something there that always feels really great, and since we recorded the last album in the spring of 2013, we’ve moved even further in that direction.  I put this specific band together to really have a group that could be super dynamic, acoustic and be able to do anything, and it really just gets better every time we play.  I really love playing with Kirk and Ziv, and this record will definitely be a step up from the last.

CB: How would you describe the aesthetic of the trio?

MJ: That’s a difficult thing to explain in words. There’s something very clear when we’re playing, or clear to me when I think about the band, but I don’t know how to describe it.  It could be that we’re trying to say the most with the least amount of moves.  There’s a deepening simplicity in the group, and the more we play, we cut out all the extra stuff so that we can be really loose and free with the music.

CB: Can you talk about the inspiration and ideas behind some of your new compositions?

MJ: Sure, although it’s certainly not super clear to me this time around.  In the past I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from specific sources (film, books, etc), but this time the tunes have been coming from all over.  And while, stylistically, the new music is similar in essence to the past trio tunes, the inspiration is less clear to me.  Also, seeing as I wrote most of these tunes over the last year, some of the “older” ones I even forgot that I wrote, so it’s hard to remember where the idea popped up.  The only thing I’ve noticed is that the music I’ve been writing for the trio + 2 has been my most intricate yet.  I don’t know why, but I just seem to want to write for them in that way.

CB: What other projects and performances do you have on the horizon?

MJ: I’ll be taking part in the tribute week for Will Connell at the Stone later this month.  Will was one of the first people I played with in New York, and he was genuinely the nicest person I’ve met.  I had the opportunity to play in his band, Sadhana, with Vincent Chancey and Jeremy Carlstedt for the past 4 years, and we will be playing on December 26th at the Stone, paying tribute to Will’s life and music.  After that I’ll be in California in January playing some shows with Ross Hammond, Alex Cline, Vinny Golia, Darren Johnston, Jordan Glenn, Alissa Rose and other wonderful folks.  I also have two recordings in the can that should be coming out next year (fingers crossed).  The first is a collaborative improvised record with Perry Robinson, Diane Moser and myself, and the second is the debut record of my Silver Quartet, with Kris Davis, Susan Alcorn and Mike Pride, which is all original music, plus my arrangement of Ennio Moricone’s music from “Once Upon a Time in the West”.  Other than that, I have a bunch more gigs, recordings and tours coming next year, and look forward to seeing what else happens!

Selected Discography

  • Max Johnson Trio – The Invisible Trio (Fresh Sound, 2014)
  • Max Johnson – The Prisoner (No Business, 2014)
  • Big Eyed Rabbit – self-titled (Not Two, 2014)
  • Max Johnson Trio – Elevated Vegetation (FMR, 2012)
  • Max Johnson Quartet – self-titled (Not Two, 2012)

Best Albums of 2014

This was an amazing year with a number of innovative and revolutionary releases that made it very difficult to choose. I spent many days narrowing the best records of 2014 down to fifteen:

  1. Josh Sinton’s Ideal Bread – Beating the Teens (Cuneiform)
  2. Travis Laplante’s Battle Trance – Palace of Wind (NNA Tapes)
  3. Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio & Peter Evans – Live in Lisbon (No Business)
  4. Tomas Fujiwara Trio – Variable Bets (Relative Pitch)
  5. Tony Malaby’s Tamarindo – Somos Agua (Clean Feed)
  6. Matt Bauder’s Day in Pictures – Nightshades (Clean Feed)
  7. Thumbscrew – self-titled (Cuneiform)
  8. VAX – Count to VAX (self-released)
  9. Mary Halvorson – Reverse Blue (Relative Pitch)
  10. Max Johnson – The Prisoner (No Business)
  11. Tyshawn Sorey – Alloy (Pi)
  12. Anna Webber – SIMPLE (Skirl)
  13. William Hooker & Liudas Mockunas – Live at Vilnius Jazz Festival (No Business)
  14. Ingrid Laubrock & Tom Rainey – And Other Desert Towns (Relative Pitch)
  15. Patrick Breiner’s Double Double – Mileage (Sulde)

Harris Eisenstadt’s Canada Day to Unveil New Music at Greenwich House Music School, Dec 11, 8 pm

(photo by Evan Eisenstadt)

(photo by Evan Eisenstadt)

Fresh off a cracking European tour, drummer and composer Harris Eisenstadt‘s Canada Day will unveil its latest music at Greenwich House Music School this coming Thursday, December 11, at 8 pm. The performance is also a lead-up to a January recording session for the band’s fourth record. In an age in which few bands record more than one or two releases, Canada Day has developed an impeccable reputation with three innovative releases since 2009. Eisenstadt will be supported by the all-star cast of Nate Wooley (trumpet), Matt Bauder (tenor saxophone), Chris Dingman (vibraphone), and Eivind Opsvik (bass).

Interview with Harris Eisenstadt about Canada Day IV

Cisco Bradley: What is your vision for the next Canada Day record?

Harris Eisenstadt: The process of documenting each Canada Day record has been to rehearse and perform new material in town and on the road for about a year, then hit the studio. As everyone’s schedules have gotten increasingly busy, this process has become more and more streamlined, to the point that we rarely play in New York these days. So the plan for the next Canada Day record is to go in to the studio January 25 (after an Ibeam residency January 23-24) to document the music we started working on in May 2014. We used that four-night residency at Douglass Street Music Collective to start getting this book together. Then we toured Europe this past November 2014 and refined the music further. The pieces by now are pretty internalized, so the concert December 11 at Greenwich House will reflect that. And the Ibeam residency next month gives us the opportunity to refine the music even further before documenting it.

CB: Your next release will be the fourth Canada Day release since 2009. You have clearly covered a lot of ground. What can you say about the band’s progress to date? What do you see as the next step in the ensemble’s progress?

HE: Each book of songs that we’ve recorded has reflected where I was at compositionally the year or so that preceded the recording session.  The music for the first Canada Day (Clean Feed) record sounds like me learning how to write for the band. I wrote the book for Canada Day II (Songlines) when our son was just born; I was pretty exhausted and sentimental, and the music kind of sounds like that. The book for Canada Day III (Songlines) was a sort of a return to… if not overtly complex forms, more involved, multi-part structures. We also had the opportunity to record an expanded octet version of Canada Day for 482 Music around the same time as we recorded Canada Day III. For the octet project I wrote a suite of four pieces that really tried to exploit all the voices and options – kind of a little big band approach. III and Octet were recorded late 2012 and came out in 2013, then the band was pretty much on hiatus for a year. In addition to working on other projects, I spent that time writing the Canada Day IV book. The music for Canada Day IV , also to be recorded for Songlines, is a departure from earlier records in one very fundamental way. In addition to exploring some similar compositional areas (expanding/exploding vamps, multi-part mini-suites in which earlier thematic materials don’t necessarily return at the end), I composed short duo pieces for tenor/vibraphone, trumpet/vibraphone, and bass/vibraphone, and placed them each within the larger quintet structures. So the sonic result for this record will be a more varied timbral landscape in a sense: unaccompanied solos, duos and trios within the full ensemble. In a sense, rather than trying to make a quintet sound larger than it is (the impetus for the octet project), I’ve tried to make a quintet be able to sound more kaleidoscopic this time around, by highlighting the smaller instrumental combinations available within the group. The recording will be released in time for my 40th birthday residency at the Stone September 1-6 2015 (Canada Day plays September 3-4 – the 4th is my birthday) and Canada Day’s early October 2015 Europe tour (dates confirmed so far in Romania, Norway; more to be announced). 

CB: What possibilities are opened up by the addition of Pascal Niggenkemper on bass?

HE: Eivind Opsvik was the original bass player in Canada Day, and recorded on the first two albums. When he wasn’t available for a tour in 2012, Garth Stevenson stepped in and did a fantastic job. Garth ended up recording Canada Day III and Octet and did several tours with us. When he moved to western Massachusetts last year and there was a residency at Douglass Street on the books that he couldn’t make, I had to find someone in town who would be the right fit. Eivind had commitments at the time, so I brought Pascal Niggenkemper in, who I’d played with in Larry Ochs’ band. The music immediately took off with Pascal. As the dates settled for our November 2014 tour, Pascal was unable to make the whole tour due to previous commitments. Luckily, Eivind and I had a gig with the Nate Wooley Quintet at a festival in Poland the day before Canada Day’s tour started, so Eivind was able to stay on in Europe do the tour with us.  Eivind is on the December 11 Greenwich House concert, than Pascal will be back with us for the Ibeam residency and Canada Day IV recording session in January.

CB: What can you share about the inspiration and ideas behind the song titles for Canada Day IV?

HE: I was enamored with Richard Ford’s novel Canada last year while writing the book for Canada Day IV, and found myself jotting down some of his beautiful sentences here and there to save for song titles. One particular passage that stuck was: “I read that the great critic Ruskin wrote that composition is the arrangement of unequal things. Which means that it’s for the composer to determine what’s equal to what, and what matters more and what can be set to the side of life’s hurtling passage onward.” I borrowed four song tiles from this one sentence! “The Arrangement of Unequal Things” actually ended up as the first song on Golden State II (coming March 2015 on Songlines).  “What’s Equal to What,” “What Can be Set to the Side” and “Life’s Hurtling Passage Onward” are all tunes in the IV book. Another song is called Meli Melo, which is the French name for a Canadian snack (English name: “Bits and Bites”) that I remember from growing up. As mentioned, I wrote three duo pieces that fit inside the larger structures. These three, along with the other half of Meli Melo, originally had Bits and Bites 1-4 as working titles. When I ended up putting two of them together as one piece, for some reason it reminded me of this snack from when I was a kid, which was essentially a mix of super-salty pretzels, shreddies (kind of a Canadian version of Chex cereal), peanuts and something else (can’t remember exactly). High concept, let me tell you. The final three tunes in the book were named at various points during the particularly brutal 2013-14 winter. Sometimes It’s Hard to Get Dressed in the Morning and Let’s Say it Comes in Waves are both essentially dedicated to our five-year old son. Let’s just say that their titles (and the music materials therein) are much less sentimental than some of the music from Canada Day II. After Several Snowstorms pretty much speaks for itself.

CB: What is it about the improvisation styles of each of the musicians in Canada Day that gives the group its cohesive sound?

HE: Each musician’s improvisational style is vital, of course, but ultimately there has to be an intangible simpatico that somehow clicks. Some projects gel and some don’t, regardless of how unique each improviser is and how well-thought out the mix of personalities (musical and otherwise) is. In the case of Canada Day, as soon as I heard Nate and Matt together I knew I’d found the right so-called front line. I’ve spoken in interviews before about how they each have the kind of total approach that I really value: personal and complete mastery of conventional and unconventional techniques plus immediately recognizable sounds. In my band and in Matt’s quintet (and in other projects over the years) they have had extensive opportunities to play together, and this is clearly audible in how they phrase together, push each other, complement one another. I met Chris while we both lived in Los Angeles around 2003, and we both moved back to New York around the same time (2005-2006). I knew I wanted vibraphone as a chordal instrument in Caanda Day, and I’d been deeply impressed with Chris’ musicality and unique voice when we worked together in Adam Rudolph’s large ensemble and on my 2006 re-imagining of Wayne Shorter’s The All Seeing Eye + Octets for the LA (mostly) hip-hop label Poo-bah. There’s a fleetness in Chris’ playing that I love; not only in terms of fast, fluid lines and a virtuosic rhythmic sensibility, but a fleet sense of architectural framing. I like to give him melodies, harmonies and rhythms, of course, but I also love to set him loose on a structure and know that he will shape what’s going on meaningfully and artfully, every time. Whether it’s been Eivind Opsvik, Garth Stevenson, or Pascal Niggenkemper, the role of the bass player in Canada Day has always been to deal with the written materials in fixed and flexible ways. Each of these exceptional bassists are masters of interpolation; they take the sometimes-skeletal, sometimes-detailed materials and make more of them than what is on the page.