Release date: October 15, 2019
Label: Woolgathering Records
Bassist/composer Matt Ulery's new jazz quintet album, Delicate Charms is fervent and spellbinding - the album perfectly captures the energy, dynamic nuance and sensitivity of the performers who grace each of the Ulery-penned tracks. Delicate Charms features Greg Ward on alto saxophone, Zach Brock on violin, Rob Clearfield on piano, Quin Kirchner on drums and Matt Ulery playing double bass on all tracks. The unusual instrumentation of alto saxophone and violin paired with a traditional rhythm section comprised of piano, bass and drums produces wonderful opportunities to explore an array of fresh colors, textures and blends of melody. The interaction between Ward’s alto saxophone and Brock’s violin creates a singular, unique tone when playing in unison and a warm density when playing contrapuntally.
The opportunity to perform with this unusual outfit was presented to Ulery upon being asked to bring a small group to perform a set at the Guimarães (Portugal) Jazz Festival, at which he was the artist/composer-in-residence, in November 2018. The consummate double bassist and composer was so pleased with the outcome of the performance that the group, which he entitled ‘Delicate Charms’, flew to Chicago after the festival and recorded this release which bears the same name as the ensemble. Band leader Ulery exclaims “A fan I am of these tenacious individuals I call close friends and collaborators. The sound and vibe of this project would be impossible without their unique, distinct musical expression.”
The first track on Delicate Charms is titled “Coping” - an almost entirely through-composed suite performed continuously in six parts. This deeply emotive piece runs for over thirteen minutes and the dynamics and stellar interplay of the piece captivate the listener’s attention throughout. The composer stated that he wrote “Coping” slowly over the course of a year, as health challenges afflicting close family members weighed heavily. This composition reminds us that while we all tackle complex emotions throughout our lives, we can seek solace in the creation and the enjoyment of art. “Tribulations and disarray in life are nothing new, but as artists, we might be lucky enough to have creative outlets, mostly abstract in instrumental music, to somehow project or direct these personal impressions” says the artist. “Reflecting on what came together in this time, I realized it was a process in patience, acceptance, and transition.”
“Mellisonant” is an exploration in density and melodic intrigue. The track introduces the listener to the improvisational prowess of Greg Ward and Zach Brock as they trade soloing segments. The sweet warmth of the track aptly reflects its title “mellisonant”, meaning ‘pleasing to the ear’. “The Air We Breath” demonstrates the rhythmic facility of the ensemble, and features stunning solos by Rob Clearfield and Greg Ward. The melancholy, reserved harmonies of “October” add a stately, third-stream charm to the albums assemblage of compositions. Quin Kirchner accents Ulery’s melody with a masterful intensity and precision. The final track on the album “Nerve” features an almost meditative intro from Rob Clearfield, followed by soaring melodies from Ward and Brock. This dynamic track features a delicate, and yet declarative solo by the bassist and bandleader, and builds to a climax featuring the full personnel locked into the harmony and the rhythmic jabs of this intense Ulery composition, a fitting finale for this exciting release.
NEW CITY MUSIC
"His most recent album, “Delicate Charms,” was released in October and has drawn comparisons to artists as far afield as Charles Mingus and Claude Debussy." Read the full feature here
"Craftsmanship lies at the very heart of this music, evident not only in Ulery’s meticulous attention to detail, but in the ensemble’s selfless pursuit of perfection." Read the full interview here
POINT OF DEPARTURE
"Known for sweeping lyricism, expressive emotionalism, and unconventional structures, Chicago-based bassist, composer, and bandleader Matt Ulery has established a recognizable sound." Read the full interview here
CHICAGO JAZZ MAGAZINE
“With each release, Ulery’s vision grows and matures—making him one of the most intrepid and innovative contemporary musicians. The mellifluous and intricate Delicate Charms is thought-provoking and charmingly sophisticated. It is novel, complex yet accessible, which, together with its singular style, are the makings of an instant classic.” Read the full review here.
“As a composer, one of Matt Ulery’s strengths is his talent for balancing a huge sound with an exquisite melodicism. In this way, he reveals an irresistible vulnerability in every show of strength. It’s why his big band and orchestral works have a clear intimacy, and his smaller ensemble pieces seem to roar up to the heavens. ” Read the full review here.
“Every track on Delicate Charms is worth exploring in depth. Over his career, Matt Ulery has created music that expands inside one's ears and mind, making the listener return to discover all that's in the music.” Read the full review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Coming on the heels of 2019's outstanding trio outing Wonderment (Woolgathering Records) with violinist Zach Brock and drummer Jon Deitemyer, Delicate Charms is a four and a half star recording if ever one was." Read the full review here.
Delicate Charms is gorgeous. Ulery’s unique vision of subtle grandiosity is let fly. It is texturally layered and emotionally swollen yet maintains a refined elegance; dense yet crystal-clear. Review here.
33THIRD: BEST OF 2019
"By the end of the album you'll realize this is Matt Ulery's harmonic world, and we just live in it." Full review here.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"This group draws from European traditions to create music which marries classical beauty and progressive rock power. Overall it is a lovely sound which is both uplifting and fun." Review here.