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Herculaneum: Orange Blossom

Jerry D'Souza By

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The excellence that marks 482 Music's Document Chicago series carries on with this twelfth release. As before, the series serves to showcase the diverse talent that marks the improvised jazz scene in Chicago; Herculaneum brings in its own influences, which it shapes into an earthy, heated and prolifically inspired voice in constant shift.

The band, which was formed in 2002, adopts an avant-garde approach but also has the sensibility of Romany Gypsy brass bands. That's one for the ages, but the amalgam works well particularly with this group's well-defined approach to modernity and a host of ideas.

All of the players bring in a sense of fluidity, at times dramatised, at others working within the soft folds of the composition. They get off to a freewheeling start with "Bears of Illium, where trumpeter Patrick Newbery describes arcs before he settles into a gentler linearity. But then David McDonnell (alto saxophone) calms the waters with a melodic expansion of the melody, nudging the line ever so lightly. Newbery and trombonist Nick Broste have other ideas, which they dissemble and let freedom take the air. Through it all there is one certainty: the band can change tack and course seamlessly.

"Lionheart rallies round the cry of the trumpet and the saxophone as they trade short phrases. Newberry gets out first with a brassy, swinging take, gradually upending form for another free-for-all. McDonnell turns it outside in as he engraves a Middle Eastern melody that turns to be the precursor for a spontaneous explosion of dynamics, capturing the vitality of the band with resonant aural delight.

Even when the mood turns calm, there is a tangible depth to the feeling this music evokes. Case in point: "Cry of the Locust, a ballad that strikes a rich lode on the viola of Andra Kulans; Dylan Ryan is content to acknowledge that presence with low-key accompaniment on the piano.

Track Listing: Bears of Illium; Let There Be Neon; Fuzball in Valhalla; Girl We Couldn't Get Much Higher; Lionheart; Cry of the Locusts; Twin Unicorns; Return to the Woods.

Personnel: Nick Broste: trombone; Greg Danek: bass; David McDonnell: alto saxophone, clarinet; Patrick Newbery: trumpet; Dylan Ryan: drums, vibraphone, piano; John Beard: guitar (3); Andra Kulans: viola (6).

Title: Orange Blossom | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: 482 Music


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