Label: Dropa Disc
**300 copies** The term ‘supergroup’ often comes with tacky connotations, but this is the real deal. Through hard work and a tirelessly inquisitive spirit, Nate Wooley, Dave Rempis, Pascal Niggenkemper and Chris Corsano have become some of the most versatile improvisers of their generation. As From Wolves To Whales, they turn their imposing collective strength into a relentless new whole. Relentless, not just because of the energy levels or the generous amount of freedom, but because of the consistent inventiveness they display.
This takes place on an individual level (let it be clear that each musician is a monster on his own instrument), but also because they always keep the bigger picture in mind. As such, Dead Leaves Drop is a terrific example of what all great improvising bands aspire to: find the shortest route from thought to action and turn it into brand new forms that transcend the sum of their parts.
Nate Wooley: Trumpet
Dave Rempis: Alto & Tenor Saxophone
Pascal Niggenkemper: Bass
Chris Corsano: Drums
"As musicians in their early to mid-forties, Nate Wooley, Dave Rempis, Pascal Niggenkemper and Chris Corsano (all born between 1974 and 1978) find themselves in that enviable age group where they can boast substantial discographies and an extended web of connections, and still be regarded as young guys (remember, in jazz you can be a ‘rising star’ until the age of 50). Another thing is that they are experienced enough to have become benchmarks for the next generation of musicians. And let’s be frank: we are dealing with a kind of free music supergroup here. Not that there is any danger of these guys ending up on the fronts of glossy magazines, but even in the world of improvised music, where musicians constantly find themselves in new surroundings and challenging line-ups, this is one for the books.
A strikingly original player since he first made his mark on the scene, Nate Wooley has become one of the most recognisable trumpet players around. Thoughtful, intelligent and versatile, possessing the ability to glide from improvisation’s margins to more traditional fare in the blink of an eye. The past two decades, Dave Rempis has grown from a brilliant young newcomer on the Chicago scene to a central player of that city’s fruitful environment. A guy with endless resources, plus a dynamo who sets things in motion and gets things done.
The title of Pascal Niggenkemper’s solo album – Look With Thine Ears – says it all. Here’s a guy who can support and function in a well-oiled machine, but he is also one of the most inventive and explorative bassists around. Finally, there is Corsano. An octopus if he wants to be, but as often a master of nuance and texture. As Rodrigo Amado, one of his frequent collaborators recently put it: “(…) he’s an ultra expressive and sensitive player with a deep level of abstraction, but he never loses sight of the form.”
Mark that last word: form. While free music’s most persistent adversaries will claim that the genre can be defined as a formless mess, the opposite actually happens. There is no form to start with, but the heavyweights of the scene are musical architects of the highest order, who collectively and individually shape the music into something new. Something that might be destroyed again as well, but that made sense at the time and often arises as something intricately crafted and even beautiful. This is also what happens on Dead Leaves Drop. Yes, the music has its share of high energy and it definitely boasts a tumultuous freedom, but it would be a mistake to reduce it to forty minutes of raucous muscle-flexing.
Both album sides celebrate the possibilities of freedom with non-stop interaction of the kind that not only sounds as a kind of Q & A, but one that originates at a higher level, with musicians organically locking into each other, as if anticipating together what will happen next. There is an incessant flow to this music, a kind of coherence when all participants retain their individuality while adding to a collective act. Despite the distinctive flow, the album is also full of remarkable turns, open spaces and baffling moments that prove the musicians’ ingenuity, like the moment when Rempis’ first solo (a thrilling display of invention) emerges, or when Wooley manages to combine abstraction, unconventional techniques and lyricism with the nonchalance of a master chef preparing his signature dish. One more: the rhythmic spectacle by Corsano and Niggenkemper, one third into Pakicetus. Almost alien in its unpredictability and craziness. It all happens within the album’s first eight minutes.
What it amounts to is the most desired goal in improvisation, for the musician and the listener: something that trumps the sum of its parts, a new language that found the shortest route from thought to action. Dead Leaves Drop contains improvised music in its sharpest form, played by contemporary masters: not just free and energetic, but also empathetic and filled with a crackling inspiration." - Guy Peters