Cinematic, soundtrack, and similar film related words are often used to describe Chicago bassist Matt Ulery's work. Ulery's compositions are certainly inspired by the 7th art and over the course of six years, and as many albums, they have achieved a complex texture that induces a sublime and pleasant synesthesia. Listening to his 2013 Wake An Echo
immediately one cannot help but imagine motion pictures flashing on a screen so that the seven originals that comprise the disc, are in a way simultaneously heard and watched.
Like the classic movie of the same title "The Lady Vanishes," for example, brings immediately to mind images of an early 20th century train hurtling through the European countryside as the long notes from the front line blow in modal harmonies over the rumbling rhythms. Pianist Rob Clearfield
's classically influenced flourishes shimmer with reserved humor, through the rich, dark and mesmerizing refrains that hint at the ongoing intrigue.
Clearfield's bright and smooth accordion elegantly contrasts against reedman Geof Bradfield
's woody resonance and trumpeter Marquis Hill
's mellow and round tones on the tzigane-ish "My Favorite Stranger." The three instruments pirouette around each other like troubadours travelling through pastoral villages. The intricately constructed and poetic tune flows over drummer Jon Deitemyer
's chiming cymbals and rolling beats, and Ulery's percussive reverberations. Hill's passionate solo, evolving over accordion's drone and Deitemyer's restless drums colors the music with faint shades of blue.
It is no coincidence that Ulery calls his group Loom as the pieces here are densely woven around compelling motifs with a mystical touch. The infectious, nocturnesque, and overlapping refrains, on "Coriander," evolve with dramatic excitement. Bradfield's mellifluous bass clarinet soars over the sophisticated ensemble play before Clearfield's thrillingly angular lines deconstruct this clever and tense urban tale.
Ulery also demonstrates his spontaneous creativity with a lyrical and graceful improvisation on the pastoral "Carefree." Hill's clear, and burnished horn and Bradfield's lilting heady, vibrato filled, sound create a stimulating dialogue that unfurls in an intimate and warm ambience like a sidewalk café on a sunny afternoon.
The concepts and themes explored in Ulery's earlier records have matured and crystalized here. The result is an accomplished and sophisticated record that has a unique narrative arrangement that is charmingly engaging and thoughtfully absorbing.
Personnel: Marquis Hill: trumpet; Geof Bradfield: bass clarinet; Rob Clearfield:
piano, accordion; Matt
Ulery: double bass; Jon Deitemyer: drums, cymbals.