Matt Ulery with Eighth Blackbird | Constellation | Classical | Chicago Reader
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Matt Ulery with Eighth Blackbird 

When: Fri., Oct. 10, 9:30 p.m. 2014
Price: $10
On his latest album, In the Ivory (Greenleaf), Chicago composer, bassist, and bandleader Matt Ulery has achieved new heights as an arranger and writer, laying out elegant art-pop songs that meld the intimate beauty and malleability of jazz with the minimalist precision and polyphonic fluidity of Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Pianist Rob Clearfield and drummer Jon Deitemyer (both core members of Ulery’s jazz combo Loom) sketch out rhythmic contours for the album’s originals—imbuing them with a sense of propulsion and airiness—while jazz violinist Zach Brock and a raft of high-end contemporary classical musicians (including most of Eighth Blackbird) add flesh to the bone with economy and warmth. Some of the best material features singing from Grazyna Auguscik, who nicely reinforces the neither/nor feel of the writing, in which the stitching together of the many ingredients (and genres) no longer overshadows the composition itself. On his 2012 album, By a Little Light, which assembled a similar cast to play improvisation-free arrangements, Ulery was still finding his way, with the seams of his hybrids often still visible. He took a stab at singing lead on that record, but the limitations of his voice made “Broken and Blinded” jarring in contrast to the rest of the material. Here he sticks strictly to background singing, with greater results. Spread over two discs, the 80-minute suite flows with extravagant elegance, from the intimate chamberlike pieces to the beautiful vocal work to the heart-racing pulse of his minimalist compositions whose concentric phrases spin with giddy centrifugal force. For this special performance Ulery will be joined by most of the recording cast, including Clearfield, Deitemyer, violist Dominic Johnson, and violinist Andrew McCann, as well as the full lineup of Eighth Blackbird: violinist Yvonne Lam, cellist Nick Photinos, flutist Tim Munro, clarinetist Michael Maccaferri, pianist Lisa Kaplan, and percussionist Matthew Duvall. —Peter Margasak

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