“By a Little Light” – THE BUZZ!

       Press is rolling in for Matt Ulery’s latest album, By A Little Light.

Many thanks to Howard Reich at the Chicago Tribune for his kind words.

“This magical, profoundly musical release embraces more aesthetic influences than one might

have thought a cohesive recording could. …the originality and purling beauty of this release

cannot be overstated.”


Another thoughtful review at Bird Is The Worm.

“Nothing about this music is small. Even the nuances possess a weight that belies their brief

moments in the spotlight. Piano is given lots of room to roam and explore, while drums stamp it

on the map. When not gingerly tiptoeing through the scene, strings make dreamy

pronouncements, while vibes and trumpet shade the edges.”


At eMusic, Dave Sumner weighs in and gives By A Little Light the PICK OF THE WEEK status.

“a masterpiece of grand vision and soaring compositions. Built around two separate piano trios,

Ulery adds violinist Zach Brock, vocalist Grazyna Auguscik, and members of the Eighth

Blackbird ensemble for a spectacular set of music. Pick of the Week.”


And to top all that off, By A Little Light received 4 1/2 stars in the July issue of Downbeat.

“Two beautiful, emotional works…There are no cheap musical tricks or shortcuts here; “By A

Little Light”… are fully formed pieces that embrace a range of musical styles.”


“Music, as a true form of artistic expression, benefits from a wide variety of influences; the more

influences, the more interesting the combinations become. Chicago-based jazz bassist and

composer Matt Ulery fully understands that concept, and continues the exploration of his various

influences on his latest solo effort By A Little Light.”



Reliable weekly residents aside, the

Green Mill occasionally opens its

doors to more unorthodox fare via two

Sunday matinees, one for jazz

composers and another for

contemporary classical. It’s hard to

say which would suit Matt Ulery best.

He’s helming a coveted weekend

night slot, which makes the question

moot, but also speaks to the Chicago

native’s growing pull, be it with the

tender chamber-jazz honed in his

combo Loom, or the Balkan-imbued

workouts reveled in as a member of

Eastern Blok. He’s set the bar ever

higher on his latest, By a Little Light, a

sweeping double album that speaks to

his eclectic appetite as much as his

ambition, alternating between bucolic

themes and more ominous motifs.

A piano trio anchors Ulery’s

elegant, stylistic patchwork, which

channels everything from

Rachmaninoff to Radiohead. Lush,

cinematic instrumental passages are

woven throughout the first half, while

disc two coalesces around the cool, dry

voice of local vocal chanteuse Grazyna

Auguscik, whose entrance on

“Somebody Somewhere” conjures the

ghost of Leonard Bernstein.

Auguscik, members of eighth

blackbird and Loom are among the

album guests joining Ulery as he

steeps the Mill in his stirring pastiche,

a sound big enough to fill even the

expansive Uptown Theatre next door.

Though unlike that long dormant hall,

this music is tailor-made to feel

timeless.—Areif Sless-Kitain – Time Out Chicago


Lately Chicago bassist, bandleader, and composer Matt Ulery has been branching out from his

foundation in jazz, not only by drawing on other traditions and approaches—film scores,

chamber music, eastern European folk, indie rock—but also by assembling ensembles that do

away with improvisation almost entirely. That shift has never been clearer than on the new

double CD By a Little Light (his first release on Greenleaf, the label owned by trumpeter Dave

Douglas). There’s hardly any soloing at all—the title track, a trio number, is the only one with

any significant solo space, which pianist Ben Lewis uses to bust out some serious Ellingtonian

splendor. Most of the pieces are in fact entirely composed, down to the last note. Ulery enlisted

four members of Chicago’s Eighth Blackbird, in addition to regular collaborators such as

drummer Jon Deitemyer, violinist Zach Brock, and trumpeter James Davis, to bring life to his

cinematic arrangements. Several pieces on the first disc feature plucky string arrangements, with

precise, glossy articulation and either the rhythmic vitality of Romany music or the minimalist

churn of Philip Glass. On disc two, all but one track has singing—mostly by Grazyna Auguscik,

whose phrasing has a jazzy elasticity. Ulery himself steps to the mike on “Broken and Blinded,”

and his slightly quavery, imperfect singing brings with it the emotional vulnerability of indie

rock. For these concerts he’ll play revamped arrangements of music from the album along with

newer work, supported by Deitemyer, Davis, Auguscik, pianist Rob Clearfield, and several

members of Eighth Blackbird: flutist Tim Munro, cellist Nicholas Photinos, clarinetist Michael

Maccaferri, and violinist and violist Yvonne Lam. —Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader


It’s only June, but one of the most hauntingly beautiful recordings of this year – or any other

– already stands out.  Chicago bassist-bandleader Matt Ulery has turned in strong work before, whether leading his

band Loom or collaborating with the Polish singer Grazyna Auguscik, who’s based here.

Ulery’s double album “By a Little Light,” however, represents a new high point for him and an

important gesture in redefining what jazz recordings can be. For this exquisitely subtle recording

embraces Western classical music, American minimalism and Eastern European folkloric idioms

– among others – even as it’s suffused with the rhythmic impulse and experimental spirit of jazz.

• Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune


Really, there’s nothing quite like “By a Little Light” (Greenleaf Music), in which Ulery’s jazz

rhythm section collaborates with members of the contemporary music ensemble eighth blackbird

and others.  ”It’s hard with this kind of project – it doesn’t really fit anywhere specific,” says Ulery,

acknowledging the impossible-to-categorize nature of this venture (he’ll lead a jazz-and-classical

nonet Friday and Saturday at the Green Mill).

“As a bass player and a writer, sometimes I feel that I need to make certain projects that I do fit

in more places.”

“By a Little Light,” however, fits into no category easily identified in record stores, promoted by

jazz festivals or nurtured in jazz clubs. Which is part of its appeal. This music seems to float

from one lyric phrase to another, Ulery’s uncommonly sensitive ear for color evident in the way

he writes for glockenspiel and marimba, cello and chimes, bass clarinet and alto flute and other

unconventional instrumentation.

The original compositions vary greatly in tempo and tone, but each sounds texturally transparent,

melodically inspired and harmonically unexpected.

So how did Ulery hit on this unlikely music? Essentially, he summed up the far-flung genres he

has been exploring in recent years. Or perhaps it’s more precise to say he crystallized particular

sounds that have captured his imagination, finding new ways of fusing them.

“I’ve been playing in a band called Eastern Blok for almost 10 years now,” says Ulery, of a band

that includes Chicago guitarist Goran Ivanovic, a native of Croatia.

“We originally focused on Balkan folk music, but at this point we play mostly original music,

and I write most of it. We’ve discovered Eastern European folk music together.

“I’ve come to love a lot of that music. It’s in me now.”

But that’s just the starting point for “By a Little Light.” Ulery’s fascination with European

folkloric music led him to study scores of Sergei Rachmaninoff and Frederic Chopin, as well as

music of the Hungarian film composer Miklos Rosza.

All these influences come together almost seamlessly in “By a Little Light.”

“Also, some of the minimalist composers – the obvious ones,” says Ulery, no doubt referring to

Philip Glass and Steve Reich (no relation to me).

“And I can’t escape my roots of grunge music and punk rock. One of the tunes, ‘Processional,’ I

actually wrote for (violinist) Zach Brock’s wedding processional. That was almost directly

inspired by a Kurt Cobain song – a Nirvana song, or many of them. Not melodies or chords, but

some of the gestures. You probably can’t hear it, but it – whatever it takes for me to get started

(composing). I listen to anything, then take the needle off the record.”

Actually, Ulery is doing more than that to hone his craft. In addition to the various bands he leads

and performs in, he’s pursuing a master’s degree from DePaul University’s School of Music,

which has to make him one of the more accomplished students on campus.

“The school thing, I don’t talk about it that much,” says Ulery. “It’s like part of my day, two days

a week. I feel good about doing it. It’s kind of strange to me to be there, but … I want to be able

to be a musician in all the ways that are possible, including someday maybe teaching at a higher


In truth, Ulery already is teaching us quite a bit about ignoring conventional stylistic barriers and

pursuing a singular artistic vision.

Considering that after the Green Mill engagement he’ll be offering an expanded version of “By a

Little Light” during the “Made in Chicago” jazz series at Millennium Park on Aug. 16, this music

appears to be opening new pathways for him. The composer says he has written additional scores

along these lines, and the critical accolades that are coming his way – including a recent, glowing

review in DownBeat – can only help.

Matt Ulery’s music looms large on modern horizon and at Green Mill this weekend



As I wrote in part one of this post, the parade of CD-release gigs starring local artists continues

this weekend, with vocalist-guitarist Frank D’Rone at the Jazz Showcase. Click here for my

review of his new album “Double Exposure”; at 80, he still sounds hale and hearty.

There’s a half-century span between D’Rone and bassist-composer Matt Ulery, who turned 30

just this past December. There’s also a continental drift between their musics. In fact, except for

Ulery’s rhythm section – and in particular, the startlingly adept piano solos by Ben Lewis – I

wonder how many dyed-in-the-wool fans would even use the term jazz to describe Ulery’s

current direction.

Any such questions, or even debates, have a marvelously cogent and cohesive centerpiece in

Ulery’s new double-disc “By A Little Light” (Greenleaf Music), compositions from which fill

his CD-release sets this weekend at the Green Mill (Lawrence & Broadway). Working with a

chamber-orchestra palette and a growing confidence in his own compositions – as traced by two

earlier albums from his group Loom – he has crafted a dozen pieces of guarded emotion and lush

(not plush) timbres and textures.

Despite his relative youth, Ulery has an extensive background in Chicago jazz, both as a valued

sideman as well as with his own groups. So jazz quite naturally plays a role in these fully-fledged

compositions. But so do a half-dozen other notable idioms.

So while it’s not exactly jazz, it’s not quite pop, either – despite the pointed use of vocals and

choir-like textures. You wouldn’t call it indie- or post-rock, although it shares plenty of those

forms’ aesthetic. Neither would you call it classical, despite the clear influence of that genre, as

well as the presence throughout the album of Chicago’s ace new-music classical ensemble,

eighth blackbird.

(Several of the “blackbirds” – including violinist Yvonne Lam and cellist Nicholas Photinhos –

will join Ulery at the Mill, as will vocalist Grazyna Auguscik, who appears on two tracks and in

whose bands Ulery often plays. Lewis, the album’s pianist, is not on the bill; the unenviable job

of filling his shoes goes to Rob Clearfield, but he has more than enough imagination, and plenty

of chops on his own, to handle the job.)

Even Ulery’s jazz” comes with qualifications. His writing constitutes a sort of “alt-jazz”

sensibility, in the same way that alternative country and indie-rock prismatize and refocus the

genres on which they’re based. The music makes room for some extended improvisation: “Dark

Harvest,” the tango-derived opening track, showcases Lewis’s brilliant solo abilities, as do

“Wilder Years” and a couple of others. But the solos constitute another compositional element,

rather than the music’s raison d’être (as in more conventional jazz performances).

Several of the tunes have the feel of soundtrack music in search of a movie: the melodic flow of

“The Miniaturist” recalls for me the music of Mark Snow, who composed music for “The XFiles,”

while other tracks suggest such divergent models as film composers John Barry and

Howard Shore; “Processional” contains distinct shards of Philip Glass. (A previous album of

Ulery’s, “Themes and Scenes,” comprised orchestral compositions inspired by film scores.)

It all makes for an object lesson in the oft-cited difficulty of assigning labels to music. The album

comes with the strong imprimatur of modern-music renaissance man Dave Douglas (the

trumpeter, composer, festival producer, and Greenleaf Music co-founder), and he ignores labels

entirely in writing, “I am most impressed by the pure emotion captured on this recording. [It] is

an outpouring of feeling.”

Don’t get me wrong: the fact that “By A Little Light” is something “other” doesn’t invalidate it

by any means. I mention these labels primarily as a way describing what the music is — which in

this case, seems to mostly involve saying what it isn’t. And certainly, the craftsmanship and

ensemble complexity of jazz have left their mark on Ulery’s writing throughout.

But in Loom, Ulery had clearly set his sights on something else, and with “By A Little Light,” he

has expanded his gaze to cover a wider landscape than many jazz artists ever envision.

Thankfully, from my perspective, he has populated the scene with some spectacular improvising;

it provides an aleatoric detail to his grand design.

The result is a large and maybe even important album, and hearing the music on stage this

weekend should provide more than a little light – and a fair amount of heat.

Matt Ulery performs three sets each night, starting at 9 Friday and at 8 Saturday, at the Green

Mill in Uptown.

Neil Tesser  - Chicago Jazz Music Examiner



 Matt Ulery’s ‘By a Little Light’ glows at the Green Mill

Howard Reich

Arts critic

July 2, 2012

Even listeners already familiar with Chicago bassist Matt Ulery’s alluring new double-CD, “By a

Little Light,” had to be struck by how this music sounds in concert.

Yes, the recording faithfully documents the tonal glow that Ulery and a chamber-sized ensemble

of jazz and classical players achieve in his radiantly lyrical compositions. But to hear Ulery’s

unusual scoring in the flesh is to attain heightened admiration for what he has created.

Playing to an attentive crowd Saturday night at the Green Mill Jazz Club, Ulery presented a

nonet version of these works, featuring a vocalist, jazz rhythm section (though Ulery does not

use it as such) and strings and winds from the Chicago contemporary classical ensemble eighth

blackbird. Not precisely the instrumentation on the recording, which also features the sweetly

ringing sounds of vibraphone, glockenspiel and marimba, but close enough.

Even in slightly altered form, the concert version of “By a Little Light” brought forth deep-amber

tonal shadings and luxuriant ensemble textures that no recording could duplicate.

Consider what happened when Ulery’s nonet performed “Gone as it Always Was,” the finale of

the double album and the closer of Saturday night’s first set. On disc, this cut – and the others –

documents Ulery’s uncanny ability to fuse the darkly foreboding character of Eastern European

folkloric music, the narrative quality of film scores and the distinctive colorings of Ulery’s

impossible-to-categorize instrumentation.

In concert, however, the piece took on a practically operatic grandeur, Chicago singer Grazyna

Auguscik’s soaring, wordless vocals pushed forward by Ulery’s swelling instrumentals. Here was

Ulery plunging fearlessly into a musical language of his own making, the sweeping lyricism of

his work undergirded by the peculiarities of his chord progressions, the unconventional structure

of his phrases and the nearly expressionistic emotionalism of his message. No work in this set

crystallized the meaning of Ulery’s music more eloquently than “Gone as it Always Was,” a tour

de force of vocal-instrumental writing.

But the pieces leading up to it made an impact, as well. You could hear shades of Kurt Weill in

“Dark Harvest,” its exotic scales and streaks of dissonance softened a bit by the warmth of the

performance. In “Shortest Day,” pianist Rob Clearfield improvised an extended, opening solo

that combined 19th century Brahmsian expression with 21st century American jazz, James Davis’

piercing trumpet solos then crying out above the plush ensemble writing. The harmonic tension

and rhythmic drive of “To Lose Your Mind” were rendered all the more powerful by the innervoice

clarity that only a concert performance provides. All of this music benefited from Jon

Deitemyer’s subtle drum work, which finessed Ulery’s continuously changing meters, tempos and


Ultimately, Ulery has fashioned not so much a jazz set as a concert music that embraces jazz,

minimalism and many other idioms. Because of its pristine sonic beauty and cross-genre appeal,

“By a Little Light” should be heard in concert halls and perhaps will find an outlet there. Ulery

already has been booked to perform an expanded version of the music this summer during the

“Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz” series at Millennium Park.

Perhaps that performance will further launch Ulery’s magnum opus across the country and

beyond. “By a Little Light” deserves no less.

“By a Little Light” will be performed in expanded form at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 16 at the Pritzker

Pavilion in Millennium Park, near Randolph Drive and Michigan Avenue; free; visit or phone 312-742-1168.

Twitter @howardreich

Copyright © 2012, Chicago Tribune



South Bend Tribune Correspondent

5:50 a.m. EDT, July 12, 2012

When a top music critic writes about a new release in “album of the year” terms — and the year

is only halfway over — you know it’s a recording worth tracking down. The Chicago Tribune’s

Howard Reich recently made such a claim on behalf of Matt Ulery’s latest, “By a Little Light.”

Reich is not alone in getting excited about bassist Ulery and his delicate, mesmerizing

compositions. Ulery’s profile is on the rise, and he’s making his name as a significant new voice

in music. He calls his band Loom, which can exist as a bigger ensemble with violin, horns and

vibraphone or in a smaller incarnation as a piano trio.

At the end of June, Ulery headlined two nights at Chicago’s hip jazz venue, the Green Mill.

“The fact that we could play this highly dynamic, often intimate music in that club was really

special for us,” Ulery says by telephone from his Chicago home.

On Sunday, Ulery performs at Merrimans’ Playhouse in South Bend. He’s bringing the piano-trio

version of Loom, featuring pianist Rob Clearfield and drummer Jon Deitemyer.

Loom concerts are full of unexpected moves, but don’t count on a procession of solos. Most of

the repertoire is through-composed, more in the tradition of classical music. Improvisation only

provides colors in the details: Nobody will take a wailing solo at any point.

In this sense, Loom performances primarily operate as a presentation of the composed material,

rather than the usual model in which the compositions are jumping-off points for improvisation.

“I enjoy being as deliberate as I want to be, so a lot of the material ends up through-composed,”

Ulery says. “But I can leave sections of openness in regards to the grooves. The chords and the

melodies are very much through-composed, but we leave it open, as a rhythm section, to explore

all sorts of different ways to accompany the written material.”

He acknowledges that the concert environment is a little more fertile for spontaneous ideas than

the studio environment is.

“When we play live, there’s more improvisation than what occurs on the albums,” Ulery says.

“We stretch out more.”

All three musicians in the Loom trio are around 30 years old, and all of them also play classical

and rock music. Their particular jazz sub-genre is best defined as “chamber jazz.” It’s jazz all

right, but the meticulous arrangements and avoidance of soloing is more in the tradition of

chamber music.

“I’m comfortable with the ‘chamber jazz’ label,” Ulery says. “I like it.”

Although it’s tough to compare the unique Loom sound to anyone in particular, it’s fair to

mention the Masada Chamber Ensemble as a touchstone, especially because Ulery admires two

of that band’s prime movers: saxophonist John Zorn and trumpeter Dave Douglas.

“I’ve been influenced by the way they include modern classical music and different folk music

from around the world, particularly Eastern European folk music,” Ulery says. “The idea is that

you can have an ensemble with a jazz mentality, but not necessarily speaking the bebop

language. We speak the spectrum of jazz language, without limiting ourselves, but we have a

concept. We’re not just all over the place.”

Douglas has taken note of his admirer’s work, and signed Ulery to Greenleaf Music, Douglas’

own record label.

“By a Little Light” can touch on the mellifluous minimalism of Philip Glass, but without falling

prey to the torpor that can plague minimalist works. At other times, Ulery calls to mind the icy

visions of European jazz artists on the ECM label, but with a more rooted, “American”


Much of Ulery’s time away from Loom is spent with another band, the guitar-driven modern folk

quartet Eastern Blok. With that group, Ulery focuses intently on Eastern European folk,

exploring its rich scales and rhythms.

Ulery has also played with guitarist Jeff Parker, and he admires Parker’s work with the post-rock

band Tortoise.

“Post-rock and indie rock are part of my roots as a musician. Grunge and punk rock, too,” Ulery

says. “Tortoise is in there, for sure. There’s an edginess that I go for at times in my music that’s

there in that music as well.”

The resulting hybrid of ideas that fuels Ulery’s composing is already so accomplished and

enjoyable that Reich is not alone in considering him a musician to follow and a truly exciting

new composer. In the last year, DownBeat magazine awarded him 4. stars out of five in a

review, and NPR has given him a feature segment. Ulery knows that he’s not just a young

musician working in a vacuum anymore. People are paying attention.

“I’m extremely encouraged to be myself even more,” he says. “I know that I can pursue what I

like and be eclectic, and I know that people are open to that. So far, it’s working, and that’s



Howard Reich – Chicago Tribune

This is shaping up as a breakthrough year for Chicago bassist-bandleader Matt Ulery, whose

double album “By a Little Light” has been inspiring enthusiastic reviews across the country and

revelatory performances in Chicago.

In June, Ulery led his one-of-a-kind nonet at the Green Mill Jazz Club, the magical sounds of the

recording made all the more gripping in concert. With the Polish-born, Chicago-based singer

Grazyna Auguscik singing wordless vocals – and Ulery’s jazz-meets-classical band weaving a

lush, chamber-like accompaniment – “By a Little Light” emerged as a beguiling musical

statement from a Chicago musician who thinks differently. American jazz, Eastern European

folkloric music, contemporary minimalism and other genres came together with a seamlessness

and poetry not often encountered.

In part, this owed to Ulery’s savvy in recruiting musicians for the project, the hyper-sensitive jazz

work of pianist Rob Clearfield and drummer Jon Deitemyer enriched by members of the eighth

blackbird contemporary classical music ensemble.

The question now is whether Ulery and a band he has expanded to 13 musicians can cast the

same spell while playing to thousands, outdoors at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on

Thursday night, during the “Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz” series.

“We’ll strive not to lose the intimacy,” says Ulery, who’s doing more than just hoping. He has rescored

the music of “By a Little Light” to project to a larger audience in a wide-open setting, but

he says he has tried to maintain the haunting transparency of the original.

“I’ve played that stage before, and when you’re on there, it’s remarkable,” he adds. “It feels like

you’re in a small room. So with that in mind, I have confidence that we’re going to have an

inspiring sound on stage.

“I’ve got some padding and sound ideas that I’m going to be working on with the sound engineer,

because their speaker system is incredible.”

True enough, and if Ulery and the technicians can capture the other-worldly quality of this

music, they will have accomplished a lot.

Equally important, the score for “By a Little Light” continues to evolve. For while the recording

instantly drew praise from critics, the music made a huge leap forward at the Green Mill,

conveying an operatic sweep barely hinted at on the album.

To Ulery, the transformation was perfectly natural, because he had cut the recording last October,

before he’d had a chance to work through the material in concert. At the Green Mill, the music

took flight.

Until then, “It only had evolved in my head,” says Ulery. “So it’s only natural that when you get

in a room and do it a few times, people add their voices to it and their energy. It has developed

greatly since the recording.”

Thursday night’s concert could represent the next major step in the maturation of “By a Little

Light,” which Ulery realizes marks a turning point in his life as a composer. The artistic success

and critical response to this work has encouraged him to write a new slew of compositions for

the nonet, which he’ll take into the recording studio soon.

“I’ve decided that I like that sound and I like that chemistry,” says Ulery. “Realistically and

logically, I want to play this stuff live. If I already have a bunch of (music) written, I may as well

write a bunch more.”

Considering the effectiveness of the first batch, one hardly can wait to hear the next.

Matt Ulery and guests perform “By a Little Light” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Pritzker Pavilion

in Millennium Park, near Randolph Drive and Michigan Avenue; free; 312-742-1168 or


Chicago bassist/composer Matt Ulery takes a different approach on his latest venture, the doubledisc

project By a Little Light, which melds jazz and classical into an iconoclastic fusion inspired

by Romantic classical music, American minimalism, jazz, Eastern European folk and even

current indie rock. While that probably seems like a possible hodgepodge, Ulery ably

interweaves these elements via a progression of low-key emotional nuances and alterations,

detailed moments of refinement and polished musical movements. At the core of both discs are

two separate piano trios, featuring Ulery, either pianist Ben Lewis or his counterpart Rob

Clearfield; and either drummer Jon Deitemyer or Michael Caskey. Ulery also divides his

endeavor into two distinct suites or dramatic acts: the all-instrumental CD 1 is subtitled “Little

Light,” whereas the mostly vocal CD 2 is subtitled “To the Brim.” Ulery also utilizes several

other musicians to bring tonal color to his auditory palette and escalate his compositional

dimensions, including members of the freethinking strings ensemble Eighth Blackbird; a horn

section; and Polish-born, Chicago-based singer Grazyna Auguscik. By a Little Light was issued

in both CD and digital download form: this review refers to the compact disc release.

The album’s moody veneer begins with slightly skewed, Halloween-tinted “Dark Harvest,”

which evokes Ray Bradbury’s nocturnal narratives such as Something Wicked This Way Comes

and Tim Burton’s cinematic fantasies such as Edward Scissorhands. Clarinet, flute, strings and

piano commingle along a shadowy melody which circles from lyrical to dissonant and back. The

lengthy, trio-only title track also initiates with a ghostly foreboding, where Lewis leads the

threesome with prevalent jazz chords which start out with a memory-laced lining but before long

move into a post-bop sweep. The trio returns to the arrangement’s melancholy ambiance by the

tune’s conclusion. One of the standouts on the first disc is the gamboling “To Lose Your Mind.”

The vibes, glockenspiel and piano supply a secure foundation while strings (Zach Brock’s violin

in particular), piano and drums contribute a rhythmic ascent which gives the piece an impression

of a travelling across paths not yet taken. The final track on CD 1 is another film-like evocation,

“The Miniaturist,” which elicits nods to Michael Nyman’s modular minimalism. Here,

Clearfield’s keys and Matthew Duval’s vibes fashion minor harmonic variations, while plucked

bass and drums infuse the “The Miniaturist” with a softened sense of mobility.

Ulery’s storytelling aspects are forefronted on CD 2. Ulery commences with “Processional,” an

extended, pictorial-esque overview where he uses orchestral shadings and timbres on a main

theme which shifts back and forth over a waltz-like motif. From there, Ulery turns to songs about

seeking love, wondering how far a significant other might go to protect someone special, the

discovery of affection and devotion, and how loyalty and support can span time. “Somebody

Somewhere” is split into dissimilar portions which might have been better as two different tunes:

the introductory and ending segments contain a moderate, blithely jazzy conduit for Auguscik,

who sings Ulery’s occasionally clichéd verse with her hushed Polish accent. The middle section

is a jazz trio breakout headed by Clearfield’s twisting piano runs, with drums and bass frequently

changing the tempo. Ulery undertakes lead vocals on the tender but overtly fluctuated “Broken

and Blinded,” which at the outset advances like a clockwork assembly, similar to Steve Reich’s

most pop-oriented pieces, but then glides into both straight pop and jazz domains. Ulery admits

he wanted to sing his lyrics so he could denote an appropriate cadence to the song’s central

character, but his limited range and weak vocal ability is a detriment. Auguscik helms the last

three tracks, which maintain the thematic quality of the previous material. The best of the three,

“To the Brim,” has a beautiful melody reinforced by Tim Munro’s alto flute and Michael

Maccaferri’s bass clarinet, which imbue the tune with an affecting allure. Here again, the

arrangement morphs from a gentle hue to ample jazz, and then back to the temperate beginning.

While this kind of dynamic diversity can furnish certain compositions with determination, Ulery

seems to employ the same methodology too repeatedly. The closing number, “Gone As It Always

Was,” retains the orchestrated emphasis from “Processional,” and where Auguscik brings to

mind fellow Chicago singer Kurt Elling. Ulery’s nearly two-hour release is idiosyncratic and

individualistic: a genre-defying document which is both jazz and not jazz, with crossover appeal

to pop and modern classical listeners but without a strong footing in either camp. Most likely it

will prove to be a challenge to anyone who chooses to hear what Ulery has produced.


CD 1: Dark Harvest; By a Little Light; To Lose Your Mind; Wilder Years; Shortest Day; The


CD 2: Processional; Somebody Somewhere; Broken and Blinded; Sow the Deep Seeds; To the

Brim; Gone As It Always Was

—Doug Simpson, Audiophile Audition


By a Little Light:

Matt Ulery’s Loom

with special guests

Thursday Aug 16th,

6:30PM FREE @

Jay Pritzker Pavilion,

Millennium Park

Preview by Neil Tesser

Bassist and composer Matt Ulery had a pretty good resume going even before his new doubledisc

By A Little Light dropped in June. But the album, his debut on Dave Douglas’s Greenleaf

label, has certainly (and deservedly) splashed that resume with a bright national spotlight.

The spotlight shifts to Millennium Park on Thursday night, when Ulery presents music from By

A Little Light in the fourth installment of this year’s Made In Chicago series at Pritzker Pavilion.

The album uses chamber-music orchestrations – featuring members of the new-music classical

ensemble eighth blackbird as well as Ulery’s established working band, Loom – to stake a

middle ground between jazz and indie post-rock; the album draws heavily on the cinematic

textures that Ulery loves and has explored in earlier projects. The album’s guest artists –

including the rangy, stunning vocalist Grazyna Auguscik – all joined Ulery for the album’s

official release celebration at the Green Mill last month. If you missed them now, you’d better

clear the calendar for this one.

At the Mill, Ulery’s ensemble did a lovely job of transferring his nuanced writing to the stage.

On By A Little Light, Ulery threads together his extensive jazz background with a half-dozen

other idioms. But his ability to actually synthesize these disparate influences – rather than just

mash them up – smoothes out what might have become a disparate mess. The textures are lush,

but not soupy; most of the solo work falls to pianist Rob Clearfield, whose neatly knotty

improvisations provide a soulful ballast.

Through his work with Loom, Ulery has spent the last several years developing a sort of “altjazz”

sensibility; the effect is not far removed from the way that the alt-country and indie-rock

idioms prismatize and refocus the genres on which they’re based. Several of the pieces on By A

Little Light have the feel of soundtrack music in search of a movie; others suggest such divergent

models as film composers John Barry and Howard Shore, and occasionally even Philip Glass.

(And none of it sounds remotely like the sweetened arrangements that Don Sebesky used to give

“jazz-with-strings” such a bad name in the 70s.)

But as I said, none of these threads overpowers the others; in a way, Ulery’s current music is

easier to describe in terms of what it isn’t, rather than by detailing each of its component parts.

The difficulty in this project calls to mind Duke Ellington’s famous rejection of the need to do

so: “There are two kinds of music,” the Maestro is reported to have said. “Good music, and the

other kind.” The music on the schedule at Pritzker certainly falls under the former label – both on

disc and on stage.

Matt Ulery, Loom, and his selected guests perform for free on Thursday (August 16) at Pritzker

Pavilion; the concert opens at 6:30 with young musicians from the Jazz Links program of the

Jazz Institute of Chicago, which co-curates the Made In Chicago series.


(translated by Google)

This is not a jazz album. This is a record of outstanding music. That does not tolerate and

examination pigeonholed into any category. And this is an alternate reality that takes place often

outside attention and know most of those who enjoy good music to listen to.

“To A Little Light” is ready to cash soundtrack theatrical production of the highest quality. This

arresting, beautifully written and brilliantly orchestrated. Stimulating the imagination. Each of

the students imagine a movie a little differently. For me it’s dark, a bit gloomy puppet animation

production in the old style. For someone else it might be a historical drama with the action

placed in the castle with a large garden, or a road movie, but rather, without a car, maybe for

someone riding a bike, or in the old days – even a horse.

Matt Ulery is a tremendous talent. I do not know how easy, but certainly effectively writes

excellent topics can creatively use unusual instruments. There has actually two configurations -

Rob Clearfield (piano) and Michael Caskey (drums) or Ben Lewis (piano) and Jon Deitemyera

(drums). Sam is a bit in the shade. Do not expect a double bass virtuoso performances. Matt

Ulery is a wizard, not a virtuoso, but surely he can play the bass.

The first disc is a double-album instrumental music. In the second you hear the voice of Grazyna

Auguscik completed in a few songs to speak the same Matt Ulery. Musically, the two discs are

kept in a fairly similar nature. I can not decide which one I like more. The latter is also further

evidence of the remarkable versatility of Grazyna Auguscik, which again shows that original,

innovative and which are beyond the projects all musical classifications are its specialty.

Matt Ulery is now one of the most creative musicians in the U.S. market. At least among those

discs to my attention. Maybe it’s somewhere else the next level of initiation, even more alternate

reality … I stick with “To A Little Light”.

In Poland, Matt Ulery boards do not buy one. Persevere you will find them on the internet. I

hope that if you are reading this text, then you trust me and confide Matt Ulery some of its zloty,

which after conversion into U.S. dollars will make somewhere at the other end of the world will

come to you “To A Little Light”. It can also a Polish distributor, or even interested in European

jazz this alternative reality and wants to help us buy and those of previous and future boards

following Matt Ulery. Maybe one of the concert promoters want to bring Matt Ulery before he

flew to Europe for concerts private jet, because I’m sure that as he wants, it will fly. And then

probably will remember the organizers, with whom he played, the more trouble was to bring

together the budget for the cruise tickets for the team and the hotel …

RadioJAZZ.FM recommended!

Raphael Garszczy?ski

Rafal [monkey]








“…close-to-perfect representation of what jazz can be in 2009.  Ulery went out of his way to ensure that absolutely no stone went unturned in creating just the right texture for these songs.  Ulery and his group are creating new jazz on their terms.”

-Chicago Jazz Magazine


“Matt Ulery: genre-defying bassist-composer has become an increasingly intriguing figure in new-music Chicago, his work forward-looking, impossible-to-categorize and viscerally communicative.”

-Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune


“Points with conviction to a new generation of Chicago jazz innovators.  A polished and impressive debut.”

-Neil Tesser, Chicago Reader


“Ulery is one of jazz’s modern-day visionaries

-Beep Magazine


“…like a seedling unfurling from the soil. …each player—and each style and tradition the band draws on—is like a thread in a sumptuous fabric”

-Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader


“Ulery’s music can’t be pinned down or put in a neat little genre box and that’s part of what makes it so special.”

-All About Jazz


“Ulery’s layered themes rank him as a counterpart to NYC’s Ben Allison or big band arranger Maria Schneider in that despite the strength of soloists, the focus is on collective weaving of the compositional tapestry.”

-Chicago Sun Times


“It has the melancholy beauty of something ravishing but out-of-season. And it is quite moving.
This CD is an unexpected surprise and quite absorbing listening. Ulery plays a distinctive bass and writes with originality. The ensemble has a unique sound and covers plenty of ground.”

-Cadence Magazine


“True aficionados in love with the art of music creation and exploration search entire lifetimes for the joy of experiencing the ultimate in musicianship, inventiveness and a worldly sampling of personal expression deep from within: In other words — the true essence of the musician’s being transmitted through his music, whether written, sung or doled out from the heart on a single instrument or an auditorium-sized ensemble. You will find that sound, that perfectionism and the depth that brings true original music to life, on this CD. This in not just another recorded effort in search of marketability. More pointedly, it is a study in the life, the breath and the wholeness of worldwide musical genius in unison. You’ve never experienced anything like it.”

-jazz critic, Matt P. Spinello


“Ulery’s music could be a soundtrack for dreams, with moments of supremely haunting beauty amidst glorious textures.  This is composition and ensemble playing at a truly mature and satisfying level.”

-Brad Walseth,


“…delightfully difficult to classify, this music has the distinction of being both saturated with musical integrity and extremely accessible and listenable. the textures and sonorities available to him are plentiful, and he takes ample advantage, with colors, timbres and textrues coming at you from everywhere. Very often the band sounds larger than it is.”

-reviewed by Chris Kosky, Bass World, the magazine of the International Society of Bassists