Herculaneum Recommended Soundboard

When: Wed., Jan. 4, 9:30 p.m. 2012

On its forthcoming fifth album, Uchu, mostly local sextet Herculaneum tightens its already compact attack, emphasizing contrapuntally rich arrangements and head-nodding grooves. Thanks to a four-man front line—reedists Nate Lepine and David McDonnell, trumpeter Patrick Newbery, and trombonist Nick Broste—the group sounds bigger than it is, and the new album exploits the lineup's depth to the fullest. Leader and drummer Dylan Ryan wrote half of the eight tunes, fewer than on any previous Herculaneum release, and invited the rest of the band to step up and contribute pieces. Solos lead into and emerge from the written material organically, rather than dominating it; Ryan sees the carefully sculpted compositions as just as worthy of attention as the improvisations woven into them. "Elmyr" opens with quasi-tribal tom thumping, scratchy arco figures from bassist Greg Danek that mimic a cuica, and a dancing flute solo by Lepine; then the arrangement morphs smoothly into a loping melody that reminds me a bit of the pentatonic shapes of Ethiopian music. On McDonnell's "Age of Iron" the repeating four-note bass lines and simple swing pattern on the ride cymbal seem about to break into some sinister Henry Mancini detective theme, but instead we get plangent long tones beneath a killer Broste turn. This show kicks off an east-coast tour, and Herculaneum is self-releasing Uchu on vinyl and as a digital download on January 17. —Peter Margasak

Price: $8

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