Matt Ulery to Release his Tenth Album, Pollinator – A Jazz Celebration in the Centennial of Swing,
Released in a New Era of ‘Prohibition’
To be released on August 4, 2020 via Woolgathering Records
Matt Ulery is excited to release his tenth album as a bandleader, Pollinator, an ebullient program of swing music celebrating the spirit of the roaring 20’s, 100 years later. Ulery brings his stunning compositional prowess to this centennial homage, merging sophisticated composure with ensemble improvisation, making a bold statement about the vitality of this music going into its second century. Harkening back to the instrumentation of the classic New Orleans brass bands of yesteryear, Ulery returns back to his first instrument, the sousaphone. Ulery is joined by his sextet of diverse, prolific players including trumpeter James Davis, tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi, trombonist Steve Duncan, pianist Paul Bedal, and drummer Quin Kirchner. Released on Ulery’s own Woolgathering Records, Pollinator will be available on all digital platforms, and as a CD and limited edition vinyl LP on August 4th, 2020.
Recalling the iconic sounds of King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Lil Hardin, and Duke Ellington, Pollinator is abounding in the infectious grooves and spontaneous group improvisation which Ulery notes are two of the most exciting aspects of the jazz artform to have survived and flourished within the music over the course of the past 100 years. The composer remarks, “With respect, we’d like to present this art project with joy, humor, and sincerity in celebration of the innovators that helped give birth to this revolutionary age of American art music.”
The remarkable performances captured on this recording is rivaled only by the sincerity of the compositions displayed on the album. Ulery’s compositional style, known for its sweeping lyricism, unconventional phrase structures and expressionistic emotionalism sits perfectly in the context of a more traditional idiom. Tracks such as the album’s opener, “Clown Drum” and “Jelly” are filled with whimsy, excitement and dynamic interplay. “Clown Drum”s remarkable melody line harmonization by trumpeter James Davis and tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi is accented by harmonic interplay from trombonist Steve Duncan and pianist Paul Bedal, while the tight-knit rhythm section of Ulery and Kirchner propel the piece forward in full swing. Davis and Laurenzi demonstrate their striking facility on their instruments with soulful improvisations.
The dazzling harmonic intrigue of “Jelly” provides a low-down, gritty exhilaration that one might’ve expected while walking into a downtown speakeasy in bygone days. Davis, Laurenzi and Kirchner deliver fiery solos on this evocative piece. Tracks such as “Feed” and “Clover” call to mind a slower, more sultry aspect of the music that one might hear in the period celebrated by this release. “Feed” demonstrates a slower sophistication than some of the album’s other sonic outings. Darker in timbre, the piece is reminiscent of a requiem, perhaps mourning the loss of many of the architects of the African American roots music, jazz and swing that spawned this album’s inception. The album ends with a leisurely, crepuscular triple-meter piece, “Clover” which builds into a spirited group improvisation, further revealing the group’s cohesiveness and musical intuition.
Making the parallel between the infamous prohibition that set the tone for the 1920’s jazz age, and the restrictive nature of our pandemic-inflicted reality that has marked the beginning of the 2020’s, Ulery notes “We didn’t expect to be releasing this record in such an extreme time of prohibition but we’d like to invite you to put this album on, move to it, let some light in, and feel free and good.”