Matt Ulery’s Loom/Large: Festival

Taken separately, any of Matt Ulery’s compositions on Festival would be fine work, worth exploring in depth and on repeat. Taken together, they’re exhausting. Ulery, also a bassist and tubist, is a writer of considerable skill and even more ambition; Festival has so much going on that it very quickly overwhelms.

Divided into three parts, the disc begins with two extended compositions for a 27-piece orchestra (“Large”), including a full violin section. Paradoxically, these large-scale pieces are the least taxing, because they’re (a) what you would expect given the context, and (b) first. Ulery’s arrangement of Jimmy Rowles’ “The Peacocks” is dramatic and sexy, with stately piano and a formidable violin solo by Zach Brock. Ulery’s “Hubble” has an equally stirring arrangement with another Brock jewel and beauty in its melodies. Note the plural: There are many themes in “Hubble,” foreshadowing the shorter pieces.

Parts two and three feature Ulery’s Loom quintet, albeit with two different instrumentations. (Pianist Rob Clearfield switches to pump organ and Ulery to tuba, leaving trumpeter Russ Johnson, clarinetist Geof Bradfield and drummer Jon Deitemyer unchanged.) All but one of these (“Middle West”) are shorter than the concert pieces, implying that they’re less elaborate. They are not. Both are clutters of odd and shifting meters, chord and key changes that happen mid-bar and multiple themes. “Hymnody” and “A Family, a Fair” spend so much time on the written tune that they only squeeze in Clearfield’s solo before recapitulating. Part three’s “Horseshoe” and “Constituant,” whose gruff trumpet and clarinet voicings and dazed rhythms have the aspect of a comic drinking song, keep unfurling new melodic ideas.

Creativity, said another ambitious bassist-composer, Charles Mingus, is “making the complicated simple.” Matt Ulery lacks no creativity, but on Festival he makes the complicated … more complicated.