Matt Ulery | Green Mill | Jazz | Chicago Reader

Matt Ulery Member Picks Soundboard Recommended

When: Fri., June 29, 9 p.m. and Sat., June 30, 8 p.m. 2012

Lately Chicago bassist, bandleader, and composer Matt Ulery has been branching out from his foundation in jazz, not only by drawing on other traditions and approaches—film scores, chamber music, eastern European folk, indie rock—but also by assembling ensembles that do away with improvisation almost entirely. That shift has never been clearer than on the new double CD By a Little Light (his first release on Greenleaf, the label owned by trumpeter Dave Douglas). There's hardly any soloing at all—the title track, a trio number, is the only one with any significant solo space, which pianist Ben Lewis uses to bust out some serious Ellingtonian splendor. Most of the pieces are in fact entirely composed, down to the last note. Ulery enlisted four members of Chicago's Eighth Blackbird, in addition to regular collaborators such as drummer Jon Deitemyer, violinist Zach Brock, and trumpeter James Davis, to bring life to his cinematic arrangements. Several pieces on the first disc feature plucky string arrangements, with precise, glossy articulation and either the rhythmic vitality of Romany music or the minimalist churn of Philip Glass. On disc two, all but one track has singing—mostly by Grazyna Auguscik, whose phrasing has a jazzy elasticity. Ulery himself steps to the mike on "Broken and Blinded," and his slightly quavery, imperfect singing brings with it the emotional vulnerability of indie rock. For these concerts he'll play revamped arrangements of music from the album along with newer work, supported by Deitemyer, Davis, Auguscik, pianist Rob Clearfield, and several members of Eighth Blackbird: flutist Tim Munro, cellist Nicholas Photinos, clarinetist Michael Maccaferri, and violinist and violist Yvonne Lam. —Peter Margasak

Price: $12

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