290

Herculaneum: Orange Blossom

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
Herculaneum: Orange Blossom
Herculaneum is both the sister city to Pompeii, also destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and a blazingly original modernist quintet with capable chops and ample ideas. The brainchild of drummer Dylan Ryan, the group's resident composer, Herculaneum is a rare entity: a new group that seemingly arrives from nowhere, fully formed with its own sound. Although Orange Blossom is Herculaneum's second album, following an eponymous 2004 debut, it is likely the first one most people will hear.

As the principal composer, Ryan has an uncanny knack for writing melodic hooks. With a piano-less rhythm section and a three-horn front line at his disposal, Ryan has a wealth of stylistic precedents to draw from, yet he finds inspiration in forging his own path. Rather than simply settling for traditional structures or conventional arrangements, he keeps his group well-nourished with a balanced mix of supple rhythms, gorgeous melodies and challenging frameworks for improvisation.

The tunes are consistently well-written and irresistibly memorable, not just linear constructions devised for thematic variation. These pieces will stay with you long after you've heard them. "Bears of Illium" and "Let There Be Neon" are gorgeous post bop excursions. "Fuzball In Valhalla" is haunting; guest guitarist John Bear accents Ryan's spare vibraphone statements inside a melody that emulates post-rock as much as it does post bop.

Andra Kulans takes center stage on "Cry of the Locusts," a heartfelt, lyrical duet between her expressive viola and Ryan's minimal, yearning solo turn at the piano. The group launches themselves headlong into infectious rhythms on "Lionheart" and "Twin Unicorns," both polyrhythmic showpieces with contrapuntal melodies, dovetailing horn statements and a pseudo-Latin drive. The majority of the tunes are mid-tempo excursions interwoven with rich lyrical content and strong solo statements.

Young improvisers tend to emulate their idols for some time before making a mark themselves. Herculaneum is already beyond such imitation. Combining nuance, subtlety and a refreshing dose of originality, Orange Blossom is one of the finest albums by an up-and-coming ensemble one is likely to hear this year.

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).

Album information

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

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Marbles
Marbles
Falkner Evans
Read Onward & Upward
Onward & Upward
Ralph Peterson & the Messenger Legacy
Read Cry Babies
Cry Babies
Cry Babies
Read ALQE
ALQE
Antti Lotjonen Quintet East
Read Apura!
Apura!
Karl Evangelista

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.