The music on Flora.Fauna.Fervor might be dubbed episodic, if not for the fact that each new idea steadily evolves from what came before. Bassist Matt Ulery uses kaleidoscopic compositional methods that develop gradually, yet travel to wide-ranging places and often return home to roost. Endless permutations of instrumental combinations and stylistic possibilities are explored, with Ulery's stellar septet pulling the puppet strings and Ulery building the puppets.
While this music employs two horn players that could easily fall into the traditional frontline role, Ulery changes the playbook with the addition of violinist Zach Brock. Brock seems to be the go-between, taking on whatever role is needed. He can add to the gaiety in a dancing section of music while blending with accordion and bass ("Shadow Ballerina"), sail along with one of the other horn players ("When I Think Of You"), provide bright solo work ("A Winds A Blowin'") or simply add another textural ingredient into the mix. Trumpeter Thad Franklin and tenor saxophonist Tim Haldeman are extremely comfortable when simultaneously stretching long lines over the rest of the group, but they also have unique solo voices. "When I Think Of You" begins in a slightly somber and refined state, developing an Eastern European party vibe that nods toward Ulery's experience with Balkan music, and Franklin's trumpet playing is ferocious in the best sense of the word. Haldeman has his way on the follow-up track ("Shadow Ballerina") and he takes a more measured approach with this solo.
The rest of the songsand the musiciansprovide different thrills. Elery and Rob Clearfield (switching between accordion and Wurlitzer) provide direction and foundational support, while drummer Jon Deitemeyer is in charge of energy flow and vibraphonist Katie Wiegman provides subtle touches that fill out the group's sound, leaving the extremes to the rest of the band. Teeming with electrified energy, brilliantly angular horn lines, aggressive rhythm section work and unexpected twists and turns, "The Queen" has plenty of these extremes and proves to be an album highlight. Cycling riffs, raw power, ambient energy, atmospheric spaces and deep grooves all manage to find their place on this track, which seems to be a close relative of the work on Kneebody's You Can Have Your Moment (Winter & Winter, 2010).
Ulery's form of distributionmaking this a vinyl-only release with a digital release on a later datemight limit exposure, but patronage is rewarded with a coupon that allows for a free download of the album, plus bonus tracks. Ultimately, the method of delivery is far less important than the matter being consumed. 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. Why tie something down when you can let it roam free to go and grow?
Great Full; The Queen; When I Think Of You; Shadow Ballerina; High City/Low City; A Winds A Blowin.'
Matt Ulery: double bass; Thad Franklin: trumpet and flugelhorn; Tim Haldeman: tenor saxophone; Rob Clearfield: accordion and Wurlitzer; Zach Brock: violin; Katie Wiegman: vibraphone; Jon Deitemyer: drums.
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