Columbia Icefield
Sunday, February 24, 2019
8:00 PM
  • Performance

416 Green Street
Philadelphia, PA
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Program Info

$18 General Admission
21 & Over


Columbia Icefield

  • Nate Wooley – trumpet + amplifier
  • Mary Halvorson – guitar
  • Susan Alcorn – pedal steel
  • Ryan Sawyer – drums + vocals

Please join us for the Philadelphia debut of trumpeter Nate Wooley’s new quartet Columbia Icefield, featuring Mary Halvorson, Susan Alcorn, and Ryan Sawyer.

Nate Wooley grew up in Oregon near the mouth of the mighty Columbia River, which flows more than 1,200 miles from the Canadian Rockies through Washington and into the Pacific; the eclectic trumpeter saw the Columbia empty into the ocean nearly every day of his youth. Now, in the auspicious new quartet Columbia Icefield, he traces it back northeast to the massive geographic feature of the same name, the place where snowmelt and glacial collapse gives rise to the river. The quartet’s evocative songs—which move from confident rhythmic strut to near-pastoral drone, from drifting reverie to ghostly dissonance—convey a fitting sense of topography, of watching a landscape rise in plain sight.

A new group as well as a new direction in Wooley’s musical aesthetic, Columbia Icefield is an electric quartet featuring the leader on trumpet and amplifier, Mary Halvorson on electric guitar, Susan Alcorn on pedal steel guitar, and Ryan Sawyer on drums and vocals. A departure from Wooley’s usual electro-acoustic work with its leanings toward harsh noise, Columbia Icefield is the first recording of compositions inspired by the geographic site which gives the band its name. The music, while still dealing in the intensity and humanity of Wooley’s projects like Seven Storey Mountain and The Almond, are serene and stoic; a beautiful set of “songs” that are, as the composer admits, “the closest I’ve ever come to expressing the central tenet of who I am and where I’m from.”

Wooley’s collaborators in Columbia Icefield are among the most adventurous musicians in modern jazz and creative music. Drummer and vocalist Ryan Sawyer is one of his generation’s greats, his rhythmic and textual restlessness creating expansive canvases for sound. Steel guitarist Susan Alcorn knows about those: Expressive and ponderous, her work exists in a kind of ever-present emotional flux, asking that you fill in its open spaces with impressions and experiences of your own. Guitarist Mary Halvorson—like Wooley, one of the defining voices of what “jazz” can be in the modern era—adds her singular tone and idiosyncratic sense of harmony and dissonance to these beautiful and balanced songs, which illuminate a disappearing landscape with curiosity and imagination.

Cover: Nate Wooley Quartet