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Nate Wooley

Brooklyn, NY         

Nate Wooley was born in 1974 in Clatskanie, Oregon, a town of 2,000 people in the timber country of the Pacific Northwestern corner of the U.S. He began playing trumpet professionally with his father, a big band saxophonist, at the age of 13.   His time in Oregon, a place of relative quiet and slow time reference, instilled in Nate a musical aesthetic that has informed all of his music making for the past 20 years, but in no situation more than his solo trumpet performances.

Nate moved to New York in 2001, and has since become one of the most in-demand trumpet players in the burgeoning Brooklyn jazz, improv, noise, and new music scenes.  He has performed regularly with such icons as John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, Eliane Radigue, Evan Parker, Ken Vandermark, Christian Wolff, and Yoshi Wada, as well as being a collaborator with some of the brightest lights of his generation like Chris Corsano, C. Spencer Yeh, Peter Evans, and Mary Halvorson.

Wooley’s solo playing has often been cited as being a part of an international revolution in improvised trumpet.  Along with Peter Evans and Greg Kelley, Wooley is considered one of the leading lights of the American movement to redefine the physical boundaries of the horn, as well as demolishing the way trumpet is perceived in a historical context still overshadowed by Louis Armstrong.  A combination of vocalization, extreme extended technique, noise and drone aesthetics, amplification and feedback, and compositional rigor has led one reviewer to call his solo recordings “exquisitely hostile”.

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”.  His work has been featured at the SWR JazzNow stage at Donaueschingen, the WRO Media Arts Biennial in Poland, Kongsberg, North Sea, Music Unlimited, and Copenhagen Jazz Festivals, and the New York New Darmstadt Festivals.  In 2011 he was an artist in residence at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, NY and Cafe Oto in London, England. In 2013 he performed at the Walker Art Center as a featured solo artist.

In 2016, Wooley was honored as a recipient of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award in Music.

Nate is the curator of the Database of Recorded American Music (www.dramonline.org) and the editor-in-chief of their online quarterly journal Sound American (www.soundamerican.org) both of which are dedicated to broadening the definition of American music through their online presence and the physical distribution of music through Sound American Records. He also runs Pleasure of the Text which releases music by composers of experimental music at the beginnings of their careers in rough and ready mediums.

Seven Storey Mountain Song Cycle

Seven Storey Mountain is a series of works informed by the work of the American mystic poet and prose writer Thomas Merton. The pieces work to attain a feeling of pure ecstaticism unrelated to ritual or tradition, religious or otherwise. Each piece is based on a pre-recorded tape score which is altered and expanded from one iteration to the next, and is performed by an expanding cast of musicians from vastly different musical worlds: new music, jazz, noise, punk rock, electro/acoustic. The group works in concert to “make the walls vibrate”.

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The Syllable Series

The Syllable series is a group of solo trumpet compositions based on the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). In these works, Wooley uses the various natural positions of the mouth, tongue, teeth, throat and nasal cavity found in the sounding of phonemes to set up various mechanisms for sound production on the trumpet. This excerpt is from Mnoad records 2013 release of [9] Syllables and features some the notation of the score.

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Battle Pieces

Originally commissioned by Anthony Braxton’s Tri-Centric Foundation, Battle Pieces is less a composition than it is a model of a new way to organize improvisers and best push them forward out of their preconceived musical ideas. Battle Pieces is a group of small compositional ideas, now numbering over 100, from which the quartet chooses one at random per piece without giving away their choice to the rest of the band. The group works as a unit to deal with the dissonances and consonances of their chose pieces together to create a cogent whole.

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NewMusicBox Articles

Articles February 26 2015 | By Nate Wooley
Getting the Point

The power of making music is found in the accretion of work and thought we put in over a lifetime, not single moments of inspiration.

Articles February 19 2015 | By Nate Wooley
Dotting Dots

What happens when you stop practicing under the weight of worship and start playing to see what you can add to the conversation?

Articles February 12 2015 | By Nate Wooley
Decisions Made

For better or worse, I have become more interested in the ways in which people think and grow than I am in their ability to reproduce subtle variations on a...

See more of Nate Wooley's articles on NewMusicBox.