July 12, 2024


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Interview with Nate Wooley: My intellect or the shaping of my spiritual life: Video

Jazz interview with jazz trumpeter Nate Wooley. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Nate Wooley: – I grew up in Clatskanie, Oregon, which is a very small town near the Pacific Ocean. My father was very involved in playing saxophone in big bands and so we had music in the house all the time. I began playing with him professionally around age 13.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

NW: – It was a struggle for years to try and fit my playing into the stylistic parameters that I was learning in school or with my dad. Over the years I’ve just been more and more confident and committed to trying to play in my way rather than within any set tradition. In that way, the sound didn’t evolve as much as become a closer approximation of what I hear in my head.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

NW: – Nothing in particular, or rather the same stuff that every trumpet player does: long tones, lip slurs, scales. The only difference for me, maybe, is that I’ve tended to take the basic technical exercises and rewrite them to reflect whatever I was musically interested in at the time so, for example, much of my technical practicing now centers the long tones, scales, etc. around certain tonal relationships in Messiaen, as that is my current fascination. Rhythmically, I can’t say that I’ve done any concerted work, outside of trying to have a better sense of time, which has always been a problem for me.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

NW: – I drift more toward harmony on Columbia Icefield but it is an anomaly in the grand scheme of the 100 plus recordings I’ve been on. Harmony, timbre, rhythm, melody is all in a relationship with what you’re trying to say with the music. In CIF I am trying to say a certain thing about stasis. The best way to do that, harmonically, is to live within a harmony and to only create tension rarely when you know you want the release from it. Most other recordings work in the opposite way for me, with thousands of small or large shifts in harmonic perspective. Just like how you may not swear at a state dinner, if you have the strength and confidence, you change your use of language to fit the context.

JBN.S: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

NW: – You can’t … simple as that, but it is not the influence making the music, it’s you. So, the less you think about the influence the better. I love Palestrina and that colors my music, but if I obsess about the influence of Palestrina, then my music comes out like half-baked vocal counterpoint. So, I enjoy my life. I enjoy my influences and I work.

JBN.S: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

NW: – I don’t think like that. Music is a thing I do. Like all things one does, it contains part of your personality, but it is has very little to do with the construction of my intellect or the shaping of my spiritual life.

JBN.S: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

NW: – Giving people what they want is actually a one-way relationship with the audience. I like having a dialogue.

JBN.S: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

NW: – I can’t think of any.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

NW: – I think we spend too much time either venerating the tradition or apologizing for it. I think the less we do to actively MAKE this music attractive to young people the more they’ll be interested. There are plenty of cross-pollinations happening now, especially on the fringes of jazz/noise/contemporary classical/rock music.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

NW: – I don’t really have a connection to it like that. My spirit is my spirit. Music is music. For me to say that they are tied together is disingenuous.

JBN.S: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

NW: – People could always be kinder to each other, but that’s not confined to the musical world. I get to work and play music in front of people who, most of the time are there to share an experience with me. That’s special and I don’t need to grouse about any of the little annoyances.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

NW: – Mostly contemporary classical music.

JBN.S: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

NW: – I would rather people get the message they want, or no message, from my music. I’m not here to teach anyone anything. Some recordings may come from a concept or narrative (like CIF does) but it’s not important to me that the listener shares that narrative.

JBN.S: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

NW: – I’m fine where I am.

JBN.S: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

NW: – I am not sure I have one.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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