Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Matt Ulery’s Loom/Large: Festival

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

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.

Originally Published