by Peter Margasak, The Chicago Reader 

Few musicians in Chicago have worked as diligently and rigorously to combine postbop with the voicings and compositional richness of classical music as bassist Matt Ulery, who improves with every new recording whether leading his long-running quintet Loom—his most jazz-oriented vehicle—or shifting through a variety of projects that focus more on composed material. His latest effort, Festival (Woolgathering), opens with two of his most expansive pieces: a sumptuous arrangement of the Jimmy Rowles ballad “The Peacocks” and an original piece called “Hubble” that features a 27-piece group. “The Peacocks” is especially stunning, with lush reeds, brass, and strings gracefully alternating between sophisticated, prismatic harmony and generous contrapuntal melodic expression. The sturdy rhythm section, pianist Rob Clearfield and drummer Jon Deitemyer, along with the leader himself give the performance a backbone that eschews potential Third Stream affectations. Still, it’s with the 11 new pieces performed by Loom—a trio that includes reedist Geof Bradfield and trumpeter Russ Johnson—that Ulery blends stylistic concepts most seamlessly. The soaring horn melodies and unbroken pastoral beauty of “Middle West” evoke the spirit of Copland-esque Americana, while “Ethery” establishes a subtle Middle Eastern tone (Ulery has traversed related sounds in the Roma-inspired Eastern Blok, which features Goran Ivanovic). For the final section Ulery switches to tuba and Clearfield to pump organ, conveying an old-time rusticity

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