Herculaneum at the Hideout | Concert preview
The hooky, horn-heavy jazz sextet reconvenes to plug its fifth album.
Drummer Dylan Ryan left Chicago earlier this year to join his Icy Demons bandmate Griffin Rodriguez in L.A. We’re happy to report, however, that it hasn’t affected the output of Ryan’s jazz vehicle, Herculaneum, which over the past several years has issued some of the most hooky postbop around. With alto-saxist David McDonnell now in Ohio, it’s increasingly rare that all six members are in the same city, let alone on the same stage.
The latest occasion is UCHU, the band’s brand new fifth album, which features some of the group’s strongest songwriting yet. Nate Lepine’s flute and a talking drum open “Elmyr,” while Ryan keeps a spare Afro groove dancing between two toms. Before long McDonnell is channeling the Lounge Lizards with John Lurie–like alto spirals. On “Elizabeth Perkins,” the sextet takes full advantage of its four-horn front line with blossoming brass and reed harmonies.
Composition has always been as crucial as improvisation to this band, which eschews a straight-ahead gloss. Perhaps that’s because most members—with the exception of steady-gigging trombonist Nick Broste—were relative outliers on the tight-knit local improv scene, even before Ryan and McDonnell split town. Whatever the case, if the band can maintain this level of productivity while scattered across the country, more power to ’em.