by Mike Greenblatt, The Classical Arts
Bassist Matt Ulery has taken a quantum leap from utilizing his Chicago band Loom to augmenting Loom with something he calls Large: a 27-piece big-band fit to pounce out of your speakers with daring charts and the kind of innovative progressions of sound that are totally unlike most big-bands. It’s in the way he positions the players on Festival (Woolgathering Records), his seventh CD.
Festival is in three movements. Part #1 features a totally creative cover of “The Peacocks” which pianist Jimmy Rowles wrote as the title song of a 1975 Stan Getz album. Here, it’s an 8:38 montage of illustrious soloing and dynamic interplay where each instrument seems to spur the other on. Violinist Zach Brock–who has brightened up both Snarky Puppy and The Stanley Clarke Band–soars. The five saxophones, five trumpets, four trombones, tuba, piano, bass, drums and string section do not get in the way. In fact, all the extra riffage presents a cloud of heavenly proportions in which Brock pierces through like a jet airliner. “Hubble” features scintillating soloing by saxophonist Greg Ward and trumpeter James Davis. Ulery is nothing if not an equal opportunity employer.
Part #2 is Loom, a piano/drums/clarinet/bass/trumpet quintet, for a righteous six tracks. Loom is one bigtime touring machine. Ulery keeps them well-oiled and gassed up for travel. Talk about being attuned to each other! They breathe on each other’s solos. You can hear little curli-cues and dipsy-doodles in the background to keep things interesting during the kind of passages that are constantly changing and evolving. (Chicagoans also know Ulery as a professor at Loyola University.)
Part #3 consists of five shorter pieces with a tuba as bass and a pump organ spewing out the oom-pah like march master John Philip Sousa on LSD. The three distinct parts give Festival the kind of afternoon feel of actually walking through an all-day music festival, stopping to sample the sounds on the various stages. Best thing is you don’t even have to leave your leather recliner.