|In the Ivory|
Matt Ulery — In the Ivory
♦♦ A 2CD set featuring pianist Rob Clearfield, drummer Jon Deitemeyer, violinist Zach Brock, vocalist Grazyna Auguscik and 3–time Grammy–winning new music ensemble eighth blackbird in a lush chamber setting.
♦♦ Expanding upon the artistic and critical success of his 2012 double album By a Little Light, Chicago bassist–composer Matt Ulery returns with In the Ivory on Dave Douglas’ acclaimed independent label Greenleaf Music — eighty minutes of resplendent, lyrical, transportive, and impeccably performed chamber–jazz music. Inspired and motivated by the musical and personal relationships developed while recording and performing By a Little Light — Ulery’s most ambitious project to date — In the Ivory explores the idea of consciousness through patient, lyrical composition.
♦♦ At a time when classical musicians perform in clubs almost as frequently as jazz musicians appear in concert halls, Ulery has forged a unique signature sound that combines a jazz core with luminous ensemble writing and song craft. Built around a band of select, unique voices, In the Ivory draws upon Ulery’s positive experience performing Light with this particular thirteen–piece aggregation.
♦♦ Ulery’s sixth album as a leader blends jazz, American minimalism, Eastern European folk music (as a longtime writing member of Chicago band Eastern Blok), and romanticism into a constantly evolving emotional kaleidoscope.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Album release: 16 September 2014
Record Label: Greenleaf Music
Duration: 42:14 + 37:15 => 79:29
01. Gave Proof 5:24
02. There's a Reason and Thousand Ways 7:57
03. Mary Shelley 6:41
04. Write it on the Wall 5:31
05. Black Squirrel 8:19
06. The Farm 5:35
07. Innocent 2:47
08. Resilin 3:24
09. When Everything is Just the Same 5:11
10. Longing 2:37
11. Visceral 8:02
12. Sweet Bitter 6:08
13. Seeker 5:36
14. Viscous 6:17
℗ 2014 Greenleaf Music
Θ¦Θ Matt Ulery — double bass and compositions
Θ¦Θ Grazyna Auguscik — voice
Θ¦Θ Rob Clearfield — piano
Θ¦Θ Jon Deitemyer — drums
Θ¦Θ Andrew McCann, Zach Brock — violin
Θ¦Θ Dominic Johnson — viola
Θ¦Θ Yvonne Lam — violin (of eighth blackbird)
Θ¦Θ Nick Photinos — cello (of eighth blackbird)
Θ¦Θ Tim Munro — alto flute (of eighth blackbird)
Θ¦Θ Michael Maccaferri — clarinet (of eighth blackbird)
Θ¦Θ Lisa Kaplan — piano (of eighth blackbird)
Θ¦Θ Matthew Duvall — vibraphone and marimba (of eighth blackbird)
•≡• Greenleaf Music is proud to announce the release of bassist and composer Matt Ulery’s “In the Ivory.” This double–CD features pianist Rob Clearfield, drummer Jon Deitemeyer, violinist Zach Brock, vocalist Grazyna Auguscik and 3–time Grammy–winning new music ensemble eighth blackbird in a lush chamber setting.
•≡• Expanding upon the artistic and critical success of his 2012 double album By a Little Light, Chicago bassist–composer Matt Ulery returns with In the Ivory on Dave Douglas' acclaimed independent label Greenleaf Music — eighty minutes of resplendent, lyrical, transportive, and impeccably performed chamber–jazz music.
•≡• Inspired and motivated by the musical and personal relationships developed while recording and performing By a Little Light — Ulery’s most ambitious project to date — In the Ivory explores the idea of consciousness through patient, lyrical composition.
•≡• At a time when classical musicians perform in clubs almost as frequently as jazz musicians appear in concert halls, Ulery has forged a unique signature sound that combines a jazz core with luminous ensemble writing and song craft. Built around a band of select, unique voices, In the Ivory draws upon Ulery's positive experience performing Light with this particular thirteen–piece aggregation. Ulery's sixth album as a leader blends jazz, American minimalism, Eastern European folk music (as a longtime writing member of Chicago band Eastern Blok), and romanticism into a constantly evolving emotional kaleidoscope.
•≡• “This is music of brisk intelligence and an almost off–putting abundance of composure… with frictionless access to great chunks of classical postminimalism, atmospheric indie–rock and harmonically astute post–bop.” — NY Times
Howard Reich, CHICAGO TRIBUNE
♦♦ Two years ago, Chicago bassist–bandleader Matt Ulery achieved an artistic breakthrough with "By a Little Light," a double album featuring his uncommonly alluring compositions.
♦♦ Penned for a sprawling chamber ensemble staffed by jazz and classical musicians, "By a Little Light" transcended those musical languages. Eastern Europe folkloric music, populist songwriting, cinematic soundtracks, American minimalism, 20th century opera and other idioms converged elegantly in "By a Little Light." Not surprisingly, the recording turned up on many best–of–the–year lists and earned Ulery high–profile concert engagements, including an appearance at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park and concert dates across the country.
♦♦ After scaling the music back last year with "Wake an Echo," created for his Loom quintet, Ulery now returns with what amounts to a follow–up to "By a Little Light": "In the Ivory" (Greenleaf Music). Once again, Ulery has produced a double album spotlighting more than a dozen jazz and classical players, his compositions at once radiantly lyrical and impeccably detailed, carefully crafted and subtly orchestrated.
♦♦ "In the Ivory" fulfills the promise of "By a Little Light," establishing that Ulery was no one–hit wonder and that he still has a great deal to say in a chamber–jazz idiom of his own making. In effect, "In the Ivory" expands the repertoire he has created for the musicians of "By a Little Light." Once again, Ulery has turned to pianist Rob Clearfield, drummer Jon Deitemyer, violinist Zach Brock, vocalist Grazyna Auguscik and the contemporary music ensemble eighth blackbird to give voice to his music.
♦♦ The commonalities between the two albums are many, but perhaps it's the tonal glow of this music that represents the most obvious continuity.
♦♦ "I'm trying to write something beautiful, trying to create some beauty in art," says Ulery, who leads many of the aforementioned musicians in the CD release celebration for "In the Ivory" Friday and Saturday nights at the Green Mill Jazz Club.
♦♦ "Not in spite of anything, not to go against anything — just because we could use it."
♦♦ Indeed, we always can use inspired melodies, glistening instrumental colors and ethereal vocals of the sort that define "In the Ivory." Though some of the chord structures on the new recording sound a tad simplistic, Clearfield's poetic keyboard work and Auguscik's high–flown vocal lines deepen the meaning of this music.
♦♦ And Ulery has doubled down on his classical impulses, featuring strings alone on three compositions. Elsewhere, the sound of Timothy Munro's alto flute, Michael Maccaferri's clarinets and Gregory Beyer's marimba, vibraphone and other percussion attest to the Ulery's distinctive sonic palette.
♦♦ "The ensemble is very similar (to 'By a Little Light') in an orchestration sense, although it's a little more nailed down," says Ulery. "I learned a lot since I put 'By a Little Light' together. I was writing a piece here and a piece there, trying to make it work. What I want to do here is set the band.
♦♦ "It's a little more consistent in the ensemble" writing throughout, says Ulery, "even though it does pare down to the string quartet. That's just sort of to say: This group of four people within the ensemble acts as a unit sometimes, and here is the unit on its own."
♦♦ That Ulery penned enough new music for a second double album surprised no one more than the composer himself, who says he wasn't thinking about how long the compositions would run as he was creating them. But when he realized he had roughly 80 minutes of music, he didn't want to start cutting pieces and "struggling to fit it in."
♦♦ The Greenleaf Music record label knew Ulery was working on his next big project, he says, so he received no resistance to the prospect of another double album. Considering the critical praise lavished on "By a Little Light," Greenleaf chose wisely in embracing the ambitious project.
♦♦ "They said, 'Cool,'" recalls Ulery.
♦♦ Yet he harbors no illusions regarding the audience for music as sophisticated as this.
♦♦ "Our audience is still small," he says. "The percentage of people into this weird art music is small. But that's why it's great to be with Greenleaf, because they're such an excellent label." One that clearly values enterprises that aspire higher than conventional standards.
♦♦ "In the Ivory" — even more than "By a Little Light" — would seem to have a shot at drawing a wider audience than many jazz projects can. Despite its unusualness of instrumentation and idiosyncrasy of phrase, this work is quite accessible to anyone willing to venture outside his or her musical safe zone. You don't have to be a jazz aficionado or a classical maven to be moved by the openness, melodic beauty and spiritual undertone of this work.
♦♦ For the Green Mill dates, Ulery has re–arranged the scores for slightly reduced forces and somewhat different personnel, though his Loom quintet, a string quartet and Auguscik will be in place. A larger instrumental group will play the music Oct. 10 at Constellation, and on Oct. 14 Ulery will launch a national tour that will stretch from New York to Detroit.
♦♦ It's entirely possible that this recording and the performances in support of it will give Ulery's work the wider audience it richly deserves. If not, the value of the music still cannot be denied.
♦♦ "I'm thankful for my friends who are putting in the time and energy and bringing their unique voices," says Ulery. "Rob and Jon and Grazyna — they're really giving it all to this music. Especially Rob as pianist and soloist.
♦♦ "The main hope is to gain more momentum, to keep getting more opportunities like this."
♦♦ Once people hear this music, momentum surely will build.
♦♦ Singer, composer, arranger, and producer Grazyna Auguscik has won the praise and admiration of music critics, jazz enthusiasts and even non–jazz audiences with a singular voice that speaks a universal language. She is one of the most intriguing contemporary vocalists on today’s world jazz scene. Her elusive style challenges traditional definitions of jazz and shows a vocalist and musician without boundaries. ♦♦ Her unorthodox approach to rewriting classic works pays tribute to their authors and at the same time is an adventure into uncharted territory. Her original music gives a fresh taste of uncanny flavor.
♦♦ She began her professional music career in Europe, and then completed her studies at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1992. Since then she has become a prolific collaborator, sharing the stage with such jazz notables as Michael and Randy Brecker, Jim Hall, John Medeski, Paul Wertico, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Robert Irving III, Michal Urbaniak, Urszula Dudziak, Terry Callier, Patricia Barber, John McLean, Ron Perrillo, and many others. Grazyna has recorded, produced and distributed 17 albums, 10 of which were under her own record label, GMA Records, and has appeared as a guest on as many projects.
♦♦ Her album Pastels was chosen one of the best of 1998 by National Public Radio listeners. Her 2002 release River placed her as one of the hottest young jazz talents in the country. In 2003 Grazyna received a Twirlie Nomination for Top Female Vocalist and was nominated for Best Female Vocalist of 2002 at the 22nd Annual Chicago Music Awards. She was named Best Jazz Vocalist of 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006 by the prestigious European Jazz Forum Magazine. In 2002 Fujitsu Concord Jazz Festival named her Top Vocalist, and her album Homage — Three for Brazil, recorded for Pony Canyon Records in Japan, was one of the Top 20 Jazz Albums in Asia.
♦♦ Her 2003 release Past Forward, featuring the remarkably talented accordion player Jarek Bester, once again resists easy classification because of its musical eclecticism, but embraces jazz in all its contemporary potential, in the pulsating, exhilarating, eastern musical origins that lead to the past and at the same time give an uncanny impression of wholeness.
♦♦ “Auguscik may be on the brink of innovation,” says a Chicago Tribune review.
♦♦ The LA Times says “Grazyna Auguscik is doing important work in advancing the potential for imaginative jazz singing. She is a singer to be watched.”
|In the Ivory|