Matt Ulery at the Green Mill | Concert preview
Genre-blurring bassist-composer unveils his most ambitious effort yet.
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.