4/21/17 – Matt Ulery “By A Little Light” (2012)

Matt Ulery is a Jazz musician and composer that I have ignored for far too long. By a Little Light isn’t strictly a Jazz piece, it strays into Classical, Folk, and Rock at times. This album is strangely familiar, I am 100% sure I’ve never listened to it before but it is giving me huge deja vu. Random melodies and solos suddenly trigger memories in me that are hard to explain. It’s a very mystical and mysterious album, an unpredictable and fluid album. You can listen to it passively for a few minutes but it will soon demand your attention with it’s shifting ebb and flow.

Dark Harvest is a Jazz and Eastern European Folk mix, with quite a full band including a cello and viola to compliment the more traditional Jazz instruments that are used consistently throughout the album (double bass, drums, trumpet). I’m a sucker for the piano, and thankfully this album features it a lot, and the playing is just dazzling. Thankfully this album doesn’t focus on one instrument, it’s much more about the composition in whole, and several groups move in and out as the group move towards the conclusion of each track. Matt Ulery plays the double bass and he stays in the shadows, only to show up in the spotlight on occasion. Instead of his immediate apparent mastery of his instrument, this album showcases his ability to compose mesmerizing songs effortlessly.

Shortest Day has one of my favorite melodies on the album, and although the piano is simply top notch on this track, it feels better when the violin plays it. The Miniaturist is one of the smallest number of people playing on it, rivaled only by the title track By a Little Light. On The Miniaturist, the marimba and piano drive the song with a slight back up of drums and double bass. Despite having so few instruments the sound is incredibly rich, and it’s a great closer to the first half of the double album.

Processional opens the 2nd half with a playful and curious mood, another shift in mood for this album. Somebody Somewhere throws another curve ball with the introduction of vocals by singer Grażyna Auguścik. She sings for the rest of By A Little Light and she feels like such a natural fit that it feels like she’s always been singing. I normally don’t fawn over singers but her style fits the aesthetic of this album so well it’s amazing. She’s got a very soothing yet mysterious voice. On the last two tracks she dances along with the band, each following each other down the winding melodies. It all ends with a spiraling descent into madness that feels all the more unnatural given how long she can hold her voice. It’s all just so unique and fascinating, I ended up listening to this album 3 times over the course of the review and still want to listen to it again. Jazz fans should obviously check this out, but even if you’re not a fan of Jazz, still give it a try. It’s varied enough and pulls inspiration from a number of different sources that I think just about anyone can find something they love here.

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