Update Tue 2/6: Nate Wooley will perform not with Knknighgh but with his trio Icepick.
If you measure the power of a provocation by its enemies, Aram Saroyan’s “Lighght” is a megaton bomb. Fifteen years after the one-word poem was included in the 1965 edition of The American Literary Anthology, Ronald Reagan used it as a reason to try and shut down the National Endowment for the Arts. And if you measure it by the duration of its influence, it still packs quite a bang. Taking cues from Saroyan, trumpeter Nate Wooley named both his recent album and the quartet that plays on it Knknighgh (pronounced “knife”), but the writer’s influence doesn’t stop there. Determined to extract maximum music from the fewest resources, Wooley composed just one 13-bar theme and a handful of fragmentary phrases that any musician in the band can call at any time. The results don’t sound minimal at all. Wooley, alto saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos, bassist Brandon Lopez, and drummer Dre Hocevar turn their sparse source material into bristling contrapuntal exchanges, coarse textural explorations, and unsentimental lyrical passages. Wooley has staffed his quartet with three of the strongest young players on New York’s improvisational scene, so the band could get by on instrumental firepower even if his ideas weren’t strong. Knknighgh was scheduled to make its Chicago debut at this fund-raiser for the Option Series, which has been hosting intimate concerts and interviews at Experimental Sound Studio since 2015. The quartet's set has been cancelled, however, and Wooley will instead perform with Icepick, his trio with drummer Chris Corsano and bassist Ingebrigt Håker-Flaten. v