The David Ullmann Group – Sometime [TrackList follows] – Little Sky Records LSR02 59:56 [11/16/18] ****:
It’s not every musician who gets to go back in time and make something better than it was. Essentially, that is what guitarist David Ullmann has done on his fourth album, the hour-long, nine-track Sometime. Ullmann revisited an unreleased organ trio recording he did nearly 12 years ago with drummer Vin Scialla (who has also worked with JD Allen, Vernon Reid, Eric Revis and more) and organist Joe Ashlar (a busy New Orleans keyboardist). Over the years, Ullmann’s musical perspective and viewpoint has widened, and he decided to take the basic trio tunes and expand them with a plethora of musicians including trombonist Brian Drye (NYC groups Bizingas and The Four Bags), saxophonist Mike McGinnis (also The Four Bags; and credits include Art Lande and Steve Swallow), trumpeter Jeff Hermanson (Lonnie Plaxico) and others. The result is a unique project which balances a youthful uninhibitedness and energy with a multifaceted and older inventiveness.
Ullmann’s compositional skills run through eight cuts; there’s also a cover of Wayne Shorter’s “Adam’s Apple.” The CD opens with the warm and grooving “Slipstream,” where the guitar, drums and organ are complemented by Hermanson’s trumpet, Drye’s trombone, McGinnis’ sax and Bryn Roberts’ Wurlitzer. Listening to this new arrangement it’s hard to imagine it wasn’t meant to sound just like it does. There’s an Asian fusion undertone to the six-minute “Tapping at the Knit,” with Neel Murgai’s sitar slipping in and out of the enticing grooveathon. The exotic elements become more pronounced on the modally-shifting “March,” where Murgai’s Indian instruments come to the forefront and Roberts lends a slightly psychedelic edge via extra keyboards. “March” also has an amiable foundation where Ashlar’s Hammond organ and Ullmann’s guitar offer cordiality. Sitar is also a solid part of the otherworldly and lightly funky “When,” which is sieved through a hazy daze like the intoxicating sensation of that second cocktail on a night out. Little details like the blurred Wurlitzer, Snehasish Mozumder’s unexpected mandolin and Scialla’s trippy percussive effects supplement the fermented feel.
A few lengthier pieces provide a somewhat different standpoint. An eight-minute rendition of Shorter’s “Adam’s Apple” sustains a soulful sense by means of organ (Ashler’s fiery improvisation is a must-hear), drums and guitar with overdubbed trombone, trumpet, Ben Lapidus’ tres (a guitar-like chordophone of Cuban origin) and Chris Dingman’s vibes. The ten-minute “Reckon” has a smoky, late-night ambiance driven by Rex Benincasa’s interesting percussion, Ullmann’s effects-tinted guitar sounds and Ashlar’s vivid organ embellishments. It’s intriguing Ullmann chose not to put horns into this psychedelically-sprinkled opus, which evokes the jazzier side of the San Francisco Haight-Ashbury era. The heady groove returns on the concluding and appropriately-titled “Grant’s Groove,” which hits a soulful stance with horns helping alongside guitar, drums, organ, the tres, mandolin and vibes. When the 6:35 track comes to an end, it feels like a full work-out has finished. Ullman’s previous albums have shown many diverse aspects of his musical personality. Sometime may be his best to date.
David Ullmann – guitar; Vin Scialla – drums; Joe Ashlar – organ; Rex Benincasa – percussion; Brian Drye – trombone (tracks 1, 2, 4-6, 9); Mike McGinnis – tenor and alto saxophone (tracks 1, 4, 9); Jeff Hermanson – trumpet (tracks 1, 2, 4-6, 9); Oscar Noriega – alto saxophone and bass clarinet (tracks 2, 6); Josh Plotner – tenor and alto saxophone, flute (track 9); Bryn Roberts – Wurlitzer, synth (tracks 1, 3, 5, 7- 8); Ben Lapidus – tres (tracks 6, 9); Snehasish Mozumder – mandolin (tracks 5, 9); Neel Murgai – sitar, daf, tamboura (tracks 2-3, 5, 7); Chris Dingman – vibraphone (tracks 2, 4, 6, 9)
Tapping at the Knit
Recommended: David Ullmann 8 – “Corduroy” Bird is the Worm
Using the thought & form of 1970s TV show theme songs as his inspiration point, guitarist David Ullmann put together one of the more melodically rich albums in 2014. The melodies on Corduroy have a memorable quality that rivals those of that decade’s classic themes. However, what seals the deal is Ullmann’s thoughtful attention to the way in which harmony pushes the sale of the melodies on an album where, really, the melodies sell themselves.
He opens things with the upbeat “The Chase,” a tune with a hard charging Rockford Files tempo. Making use of his entire cast, Ullmann builds plenty of room for soloists to step up and drive. “Ocelot” isn’t far removed, but works a Barney Miller groove instead of a determined beat. “Papaya,” too, scoots right along, but with a Chico & The Man optimism.
Title-track “Corduroy” takes it nice and easy, some shuffle and some sway and the warm embrace of a Welcome Back, Kotter. There’s a nifty shift in tempo, too, on “Something You Said,” but here it performs a WKRP switch between a darting motion and smooth glides. The sadness of “You Can’t Go Back” has an incongruous warmth that fits like a pea in the same pod with M*A*S*H “Suicide is Painless.”
“Champ” staggers into the room, each step an unpredictable one. But then it gets its engine going and dives headlong into a Starsky & Hutch car chase, especially in the appealing way the different instruments stagger atop one another near its conclusion, intertwining in the most fascinating pattern, much in the same way car engines, crashes, and gun shots blend into the cop show theme groove.
The album ends with “Moving On,” a song that bleeds the imagery of a late-night taxi cab crossing the Queensboro Bridge at the end of its shift and heading down New York streets just beginning to drift off to sleep. It’s a logical, lovely way to roll the credits on this very fun album.
Your album personnel: David Ullmann (guitar), Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Brian Drye (trombone), Mike McGinnis (clarinet), Loren Stillman (alto sax), Chris Dingman (vibraphone), Gary Wang (bass) and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums).
Corduroy Highly Recommended by Dave Sumner/Bird Is the Worm
On his newest, guitarist Ullmann looks to the TV show theme songs from the 70s for his emotional template. As such, he’s crafted songs with a thick melody likely to stick, jaunty rhythms that carry the listener gently away, and, like many of those classic themes, a hint of the melancholy, whose goal is to inspire a bit of contemplation rather than sadness. Ullmann’s 8 is an all-star line-up of modern artists, including clarinetist Mike McGinnis, saxophonist Loren Stillman, vibraphonist Chris Dingman, trombonist Brian Drye, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, bassist Gary Wang, and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza. A whole of those names are involved in other projects that look back in time while simultaneously expressing themselves with a look to the future, so the success of this project should come as no surprise. Hearing album track “Moving On,” I couldn’t help but think of a wide shot of a taxi cruising over a bridge as both the shift and the night are coming to a close. A very thoughtful and very fun recording. Highly Recommended.
DownBeat, October 2014
Regarding his new album, Corduroy, guitarist David Ullmann said, “My last album was about making music that was more challenging, but with Corduroy I just wanted to make music that I like.” Ullmann’s remark could describe the New York City jazz experience, where challenging music can be heard every night. But jazz as easily enjoyable as a great pop tune? That’s another story, the kind that fills Corduroy.
A relative newcomer to New York City — he’s released two previous leader projects, 2005’s Hidden and 2012’s Falling — Ullmann’s standard technique and clean tone are practically a rarity, and a welcome one. Ullmann calls Corduroy a tribute to 1970s TV theme songs. Nothing here recalls “The Streets of San Francisco” or “Sanford and Son,” but rather the sentimental afterglow those soundtrack classics evoke. Surrounded by an exceptional octet — vibraphonist Chris Dingman, saxophonist Loren Stillman, trombonist Brian Drye, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, clarinetist Mike McGinnis, drummer Vinnie Sperrazza and bassist Gary Wang — Ullmann sets Corduroy‘s tone with opener “The Chase,” a title that suggests Bullitt, but whose playfully ethereal mood is more contemporary European than early ’70s San Francisco.
The title track sports a friendly eighth-note groove and a simple melody, one you could imagine as a ’70s them song. “Ocelot” increases the tension and tempo, Sperrazza’s driving cymbals and Dingman’s mallet-work grounding the song’s funky melodic accents while McGinnis’ snorting bass clarinet solo pushes its stylistic envelope. “Champ” is as sprightly as Gregory Hines dancing tap; “You Can’t Go Back” floats via Dingman’s glowing vibraphone and Ullmann’s lyrical solo.
Apparently, for David Ullmann, you can go back home again.
David Adler’s Six Picks, September 2014
New York City Jazz Record
Monthly list of recommended CDs, as published in The New York City Jazz Record, September 2014.
Jorrit Dijkstra, Music for Reeds and Electronics: Oakland (Driff)
Orrin Evans, Liberation Blues (Smoke Sessions)
Eric Harland’s Voyager, Vipassana (GSI)
Tom Harrell, TRIP (HighNote)
Kirk Knuffke & Jesse Stacken, Five (SteepleChase)
David Ullmann 8, Corduroy (ind.)
Village Voice Top Picks
The Village Voice
There’s a jaunty vibe to the music on the guitarist’s new Corduroy, and it’s fetching. It’s also a bit of a surprise. It’s not often that an octet playing arranged music comes off informal, unfettered by design. Hats off to Ullmann the arranger/composer, who was inspired by TV show themes of his youth on this one. Melody is up front here, buoying all the action, of which there’s plenty.
New York Times Jazz Listings for Aug. 22-28
New York Times
For his new album, “Corduroy,” the guitarist David Ullmann sought inspiration in an unlikely place: the theme songs from the television shows of his youth, in the 1970s. But rather than covering those themes, he set out to recreate their mood in original compositions, enlisting musicians like the trombonist Brian Drye, the multireedist Mike McGinnis and the vibraphonist Chris Dingman, who rejoin him here. At 8:30 p.m., Cornelia Street Café, 29 Cornelia Street, Greenwich Village, 212-989-9319, corneliastreetcafe.com; $10 cover, with a $10 minimum. (Chinen)
Jambands.com Review of Corduroy
For many children of the 1970s, television was a key proponent to any kind of jazz to which they were exposed.
Whether it was Sesame Street and Fat Albert or sitcoms like Barney Miller and Taxi or such era-appropriate cop shows as Cannon and Mannix, the music showcased on these programs arguably had just as much of an influence on a generation of jazz musicians as Kind of Blue and A Love Supreme. Any fan of deep crate hip-hop will be quick to recognize the orchestrations of Bob James, Tom Scott, Lalo Schifrin and Jack Elliott from some of their favorite beats, no doubt.
However, when this fusion of warmth, aesthetic and groove is being recreated in real time by a group of musicians as fluid in CBS as they are in CTI, it simply doesn’t get any better. And on the third album from guitarist Dave Ullmann, he turns his 16-mm memories of growing up in Abraham Beame’s Manhattan to life with the help of an equally nostalgic octet of New York City’s finest players of the modern age, namely such proven leaders as trombonist Brian Drye, Mike McGinnis on clarinet and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza.
The pure strength of this large ensemble, further enhanced by cornetist Kirk Knuffke, Chris Dingman on the vibes, alto sax player Loren Stillman and Gary Wang on the double-bass, is clear on quality original material like “The Chase” and “Ocelot”, conjuring high speed car chases down obscure streets in pre-gentrified Brooklyn in an old Ford Granada. Meanwhile, you can identify the nostalgic sentiments of old home movies of kids playing out in the street in the arrangements of “Moving On.”
For the throwback network crime pilot in your mind, Corduroy is indeed the perfect soundtrack.
Time Out New York, Critics’ Pick
Time Out New York
Guitarist David Ullmann presents his luminous compositions at a release party for new album Corduroy, which features smooth, songful pieces inspired by ’70s-TV themes. Count on the heavy supporting cast, including clarinetist Chris Speed, vibraphonist Chris Dingman and trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, to bring these plush works to vivid life.
Step Tempest, August 2014
Richard B. Kamins
I recommend that, before you listen to “Corduroy” (Little Sky Records), the 3rd CD from guitarist/composer David Ullmann, you go to his website – davidullmann.com/video/ – and check out the video in which and members of his David Ullmann 8 speak about the making of the CD. You’ll meet drummer Vinnie Sperrazza, vibraphonist Chris Dingman (both of whom played on his previous album “Falling“) plus saxophonist Loren Stillman, clarinetist Mike McGinnis, and cornetist Kirk Knuffke (trombonist Brian Drye and bassist Gary Wang – who also played on “Falling” – round out the octet.) And, you will meet Mr. Ullmann who smiles a lot while talking about his band.
That genial attitude permeates the music on “Corduroy“, songs which the composer says were influenced by TV show theme songs from the 1970s (such as “M.A.S.H.” and “Taxi”). This music is filled with singable melodies; just try to listen to the title track without wanting to hum along. Sperrazza’s fine cymbal work lights up the proceedings on “Ocelot“, especially during the fine solos by Drye and McGinnis (both of whom play in The 4 Bags) – the “bang” of the snare drum also stands out when it leads the charge into Knuffke’s solo. There’s just a hint of Steely Dan in the opening section of “Something You Said” and wonderful West Coast bop turn on “Papaya.” Both tracks feature exemplary guitar playing, the former for its quietly rippling single-note runs while Ullmann’s rhythm playing shines on the latter (Dingman’s vibes solo really impresses as does Stillman’s strong alto work and, of course, Knuffke contributes another fine solo.) The soulful ballad “You Can’t Go Back” is a well-constructed composition, with a sweet melody, fine harmonies and short solos from the leader, Knuffke and Wang. Still, it’s the emotional quality of the song that will resonate long after you finish listening.
The closing track, the aptly titled “Moving On“, is also a strong ballad. The piece seems influenced by Wayne Horvitz, especially the voicings of the reeds and brass. The melody moves around the front line before Drye and Stillman play solo lines that weave around each other. Following that, the guitar, bass clarinet and cornet follow the same format until their lines merge and the opening melody returns. It’s one of the prettiest pieces you’ll hear this year (and, perhaps, for a long time to come).
“Corduroy” is comfortable music, great to get lost in (the passionate playing of Vinnie Sperrazza immediately catches your ear with the melodies a close second). Every musician in the David Ullmann 8 is involved in the success of this music. The music seems to float effortlessly from the speakers, with the perfect balance of fire and calm, solos and ensemble playing. One can understand why David Ullmann smiles so much in the video – you will as well. For more information, go to davidullmann.com.
Jazz Times, September 2014 Issue
Too often, when a jazz composer draws upon a specific conceptual inspiration, the link between that source and the music itself seems tenuous at best, impossible to determine without the aid of copious liner notes. But slipping David Ullmann’s Corduroy into the CD player for the first time without glancing at the accompanying press release, the dark, spiraling theme of opener “The Chase” immediately called to mind memories of TV detective shows of yore, with trenchcoated figures pursuing shady criminals in clunky, boat-sized cars.
Sure enough, vintage television themes are a primary inspiration for Ullmann on his new album, whose title refers back to the textured pants of the same era. Nostalgia is a primary emotion running through Corduroy, but that’s not to suggest that the disc is in any way retro or backward looking. Instead, the guitarist-composer has used the sounds of his pop-culture past to color a strong octet set, with memorable melodies prompting thoughtful solos from a band able to slide easily from pocket to orbit.
That includes cornet player Kirk Knuffke, who views the soft-rock-inspired title track through Herb Alpert-colored glasses but without a trace of irony; Brian Drye, whose darting trombone reaches into the tight spaces of the percolating funk groove on “Ocelot,” which also features Mike McGinnis’ agile and adventurous bass clarinet; and frequent Ullmann collaborator Chris Dingman, whose vibes use the stabbing little-big-band swing of “Papaya” as a sonic trampoline. Not shy about professing his Jim Hall influence, Ullmann plays with patience and soul, building lines from the steady accumulation of resonant single notes on “Champ” and wringing the poignancy from the swaying ballad “You Can’t Go Back.”
The New York City Jazz Record, August 2014 Issue
On his third album as a leader, guitarist David Ullmann deploys an octet to conjure up what he calls the feeling of TV show themes he grew up with in the ‘70s, citing Taxi and M.A.S.H. specifically in the PR commentary. But venture more than 10 seconds into the opening track, “The Chase”, and what you hear is definitely a TV theme, but not one close to those he’s cited. Instead we hear the undulating, sax-led arpeggio riffs of the title theme of the long-running Hercule Poirot on PBS Masterpiece’s Mystery! series. Those riffs lead into a buoyant main theme with a heraldic bridge and drum breaks, all over a rolling shuffle suggesting another influence Ullmann mentions: early jazz-rock. But further listening suggests an earlier TV influence, one that employed cool jazz tropes—the Peter GunnTV show. Like Henry Mancini’s music for that show, Ullmann’s here is indebted to a cool jazz aesthetic.
Vibraphonist Chris Dingman hardly ever solos but his sound is omnipresent, his chords anchoring a piano-less rhythm section with bassist Gary Wang, drummer Vinnie Sperrazza and the leader’s guitar. Rounding out the octet are cornet player Kirk Knuffke, alto saxophonist Loren Stillman, trombonist Brian Drye and clarinetist/bass clarinetist Mike McGinnis. Ullmann’s writing here is tuneful, with plenty of catchy melodic hooks, and his arranging challenges the relative simplicity of the tunes with engagingly innovative voicings and colors.
The title track is a ballad with a recurring cornet theme countered by ensemble lines; “Ocelot” employs an odd-meter with a theme built over a bass clarinet pattern and contrasting ensemble variations and features memorable bass clarinet and cornet solos faithful to the theme. “Papaya” has a cool, West Coast bebop vibe, Stillman recalling Lee Konitz on Birth of the Cool. A rolling jazz-rock rhythm propels “Champ”, a showcase for the soloists as each overlaps the last until eventually they are soloing in tandem until dropping off for a vibraphone/guitar-led out chorus. David Ullmann has pulled off an impressive feat here, creating a tuneful, melodic and appealing tribute to nostalgic music that is more celebratory than sentimental.
Jazz Inside, Volume 5 Issue 12
Concept albums are thought of as primarily a rock phenomenon: the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime, Yes’ Tales from Topographic Oceans, Green Day’s American Idiot. But jazz has had some great concept albums as well, including John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain and Charles Mingus’ The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. And New York City-based guitarist came up with an interesting concept for Corduroy: an instrumental jazz album that would recall the television themes of the 1970s.
Jazz musicians composed plenty of television themes in the 1950s and 1960s. For example, Stan Kenton ally Pete Rugolo wrote the theme for the 1963-1967 TV-noir classic The Fugitive (starring the late David Janssen). Neal Hefti (remembered for his work with Woody Herman and Count Basie) wrote the themes for Batman and the sitcom The Odd Couple. British clarinetist/saxophonist Johnny Dankworth, in 1960, wrote the Oliver Nelson-ish theme music for The Avengers (which was replaced by the better known Laurie Johnson melody when Diana Rigg joined the series in 1965). And the use of jazz musicians in television continued in the 1970s with, for example, pianist Roger Kellaway’s “Remembering You” (which was used as the closing theme for All in the Family and shouldn’t be confused with that show’s opening theme, “Those Were the Days”) and Bob James writing the theme for the sitcom Taxi. Arranger Johnny Mandel’s “Theme from M*A*S*H. (Suicide Is Painless),” was recorded by alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, pianists Bill Evans and Ahmad Jamal, vibist Roy Ayers and other jazz improvisers during that decade. But on Corduroy, Ullmann doesn’t celebrate that era by performing tunes that were actually written in the 1970s. Ullmann plays original material exclusively on this 2014 release, offering post-bop melodies that sound like they could have been composed 35 or 40 years ago. And Ullmann’s affection for that era comes through whether the melody is relaxed and easygoing (“Something You Said”), funky (“Ocelot”), melancholy (“Moving On”) or wistful (“You Can’t Go Back”). The material is accessible and easy to absorb—television themes, after all, are meant to grab the listener right away—but that doesn’t mean that Ullmann compromises when it comes to improvisation. There is plenty of room for Ullmann and his sidemen to stretch out and solo, and he leads an appealing pianoless octet that also includes Brian Drye on trombone, Loren Stillman on alto saxophone, Mike McGinnis on clarinet and bass clarinet, Kirk Knuffke on cornet, Chris Dingman on vibes, Gary Wang on acoustic bass and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums.
Corduroy recalls the albums that Creed Taylor produced for his CTI label during the 1970s. Back then, Taylor was a master of the “jazz with hooks” approach—and whether he was producing post-bop, jazz-funk or fusion, Taylor was known for going into the studio with a definite sense of purpose. From trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay in 1970 to vibist Milt Jackson’s Sunflower in 1972 to tenor/soprano saxophonist Joe Farrell’s Canned Funk in 1974, CTI releases sounded very focused. Taylor could overproduce at times—some CTI releases were too slick for their own good—but when he found the right balance of accessibility and improvisation, the results could be quite memorable. And Corduroy, like many of the CTI releases of the 1970s, works well because Ullmann obviously went into the studio with a game plan. The production doesn’t sound slick or glossy, but it is evident that Ullmann put a lot of thought into this CD. Listening to the vibrant “Papaya” or the contemplative title track, one can tell that a lot of planning went into Corduroy (from the composing to the arranging and the charts).
Admirers of 1970s post-bop will find a lot to savor on Corduroy.
No, not a collective term for a staff room full of teachers Corduroycould well be an escape from doing homework with a bit of TV on the side for any jazz student out there copping a listen to this. That's because guitarist David Ullmann's lively 8 full of hot New York players on the up, gathering for their first recording as an octet, were partly inspired by 1970s TV show tunes the likes of the themes from the peerless Taxiand MASH. Ullmann and members of the band explain more in this behind-the-scenes video ahead of the Corduroyrelease on 26 August. Elbow pads definitely not required.
Something Else! Review
S. Victor Aaron
For his second album, New York guitarist, composer and educator David Ullman was determined to challenge himself. It’s not as if he didn’t on this first one, Hidden(2005), but as he explains, Ullmann “really wanted to strip away my previous comfort zones.” As someone who has worked as a lead guitarist in a couple of world electronica groups and whose own debut album was a little bit electric (with a Fender Rhodes), a little bit worldy (with a tabla), Fallingis a shift, toward the acoustic side. Ullmann keeps his guitar plugged in but has formed a new quintet, consisting of Chris Dingman on vibes, Gary Wang on acoustic bass, Karel Ruzicka, Jr. on saxophone and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums. It’s a tactic that goes against the prevailing trend of starting acoustic and moving into electric or electro-acoustic, but Ullmann has found the greater artistic expression he was looking for whit this talented bunch of young musicians.
Ruzicka (Ravi Coltrane, George Benson, Roy Hargrove) is a very, dynamic, modern saxophonist, playing much in the style of the late Michael Brecker. Chris Dingman (Steve Lehman, Harris Eisenstadt) evokes Bobby Hutcherson in his harmonic development and tone. The rhythm section of Wang and Sperrazza are firmly rooted in tradional jazz but with an open mind and flexibility to adapt Ullmann’s forward-thinking compositions. The net effect of these human components and Ullman’s resourcefulness is a collection of performances of tunes that are easily listenable just as it’s full of interesting creases that make closer investigation well worthwhile.
Ullmann makes use of his front line partners to the fullest, doubling up with each of them in different ways for each song. Ruzicka helps him amplify the thematic lines on the opening “When” and the closing “Reckon,” as well as the 6/8-paced “Gesture.” All three combine for “Cycles” and trade off pairings on “Falling,” shaping the harmonic character of each track in distinct ways.
Moreover, the individual performances stand out in astute ways that bespeaks of guys are well past the stage of showing off chops for chops’ sake. I think that’s an approach that begins with the leader: Ullmann prefers clear, resonate timbres using single note progressions that are most evident in solos such as those found on “March” and “Cycles,” where he even replicates the warmness of Metheny. Ruzicka excels in locating and expressing the emotion in a melody, much as Brecker was able to do, and his showcases on “When,” “March” and “Second Chance” attest to that. Dingman, meanwhile, is nimble in straddling the comping and lead roles, virtually replacing the missing piano playing with a very keen sense for harmony and swing.
No sophomore slump for David Ullmann, is the verdict on Falling. Here’s a guitarist who seems to have only hinted as to what more he has in store for us, and going on his two disparate but solid releases, his future ones bear close attention, too.
"Intense waves of creativity."
Sometimes artists write a far better review of their work than critics ever could. The David Ullmann Quintet features guitarist David Ullmann and a first call set of musicians that make Fallingone of the sleepers of the year for 2012. Ullmann's most apt description of his feelings for Fallingare indeed the perfect review for some of the more enticing original guitar voicing one will hear. Ullmann has been working the Big Apple for well over a decade and has gone outside of his comfort zone with a more open ended improvisational exploratory and quite simply one of the most dynamic voices for the guitar this year.
His second release as a leader is made up of seven improvisational gems, originals where the group dynamic pushes Ullmann to harmonic heights unmatched by most guitarists you may have heard. A passionate and virtual three dimensional sound finds "When" leading off this most inspired work. Saxophonist Karel Ruzicka Jr. along with vibe phenom Chris Dingman seem to play follow the leader of intensity with Ullmann. The group is only as strong as the weakest link and there are none with "Gesture" which gently unfolds with a lyrical progression that borders on the addictive and should favor heavily in the modern jazz circles where old school and new cool meet as one. "Cycles" leads off with saxophonist Ruzicka Jr. and is anchored by a rock solid rhythm section of Gary Wang on bass and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums. Sperrazza may well be Dave Weckle first blood part two while Chris Dingman has just raised the bar that some vibe players insist on limboing under. Ullmann plays with a quite yet lyrically intense flavor of single note runs with an infectious harmonic sense of purpose. The ambient sense of musical motion borders on the addictive.
Some insist much like the more contemporary instrumental scene there is not much new on the horizon for modern jazz. David Ullmann's tune "Reckon" may well be the future of modern jazz. Contemporary yet classic with a delightful group dynamic only heightened with the improvisational skills of Ullmann. From the professional player to the six string aficionado, one would have to look hard and take hypercritical to another level to find fault with literally anything on this recording. As an instrumentalist or composer, Ullmann ranks at the very top of the list of guitarists to keep an eye on!
Bird is the Worm
David Ullmann Quintet – Falling
A set of modern jazz pieces by guitarist David Ullmann. Quintet features vibe man Chris Dingman, who I would’ve liked to hear featured a bit more, both because he’s a talented musician, but also because I think the pairing of guitar and vibes is something special on a jazz album. Saxophonist Karel Ruzicka Jr. is most often in the spotlight, and his opaque sound blends with Ullmann’s similar sound on guitar for a set of warm tunes. Over the span of four months, I’m finding that my enjoyment of this album has increased a bit. It could be that I generally take to guitar jazz more in the colder seasons, though it’s more likely a result of compositions that reveal some attractive nuances behind a pretty straight-forward modern jazz album. It reminds me a bit of the music of saxophonist Brian Patneaude and his talent for shading his music with hints of dreamy contemplation.
Capital Bop Pick, Weekend in Jazz 11.16 - 11.18
The guitarist David Ullmann bites hard and clean atop the swelling lightness of Chris Dingman’s vibraphones. The two appear on Ullmann’s strong new CD, Falling, and in the quintet appearing at Twins, which also includes Vinnie Sperrazza on drums, Gary Wang on bass and Karel Ruzicka Jr. on saxophone. Two separate shows at 8 & 10 p.m. $10 cover, $10 minimum.
Washington City Paper
Jazz Setlist, November 15-21, Washington City Paper
In recent years, jazz musicians have increasingly embraced the possibilities found in the world of indie rock—not merely the business model, which has long been a necessity for jazz, but the actual style. Indie rock has long had an "anything goes" element of experimentation, and since the '90s it has happily embraced the aesthetics on offer in jazz, particularly the harmonic and textural palettes. Jazz has done the same, and guitarist David Ullmanoffers a pungent example. His own playing moves facilely from rock 'n' roll snarl to cool jazz chord colorings, and the quintet he leads on his new album Fallingdoes the same. Drummer Vinnie Sperrazzadoes so with the most flexibility, the light chatter of jazz cymbal work giving way without fuss to heavy rock propulsion, but that's not to take away from the melodic versatility of vibraphonist Chris Dingman, saxophonist Karel Ruzicka Jr., and bassist Gary Wang. Melody, in fact, is a strength of the entire band—it's good music, pure and simple, and if they float with grace between rock and jazz in the process, perhaps that's just window dressing. The David Ullmann Quintet performs at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Twins Jazz, 1344 U St. NW. $10.
NY Times Jazz Listings for Nov. 9-15
David Ullmann Quintet(Thursday) David Ullmann, a thoughtful guitarist and composer, draws from “Falling” (Wet Cash), his second album, with a close facsimile of the chamberlike group that brought his music to life in the studio: Chris Dingman on vibraphone, Karel Ruzicka Jr. on saxophone, Eivind Opsvik on bass and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums. At 7:30 p.m., Shapeshifter Lab, 18 Whitwell Place, Park Slope, Brooklyn, shapeshifterlab.com; $10. (Chinen)
Philadelphia City Paper
Philadelphia City Paper, Sept. 20, 2012
Perhaps because he grew up in the city, guitarist David Ullmann doesn’t show off the frenzied muscularity symptomatic of so many young transplants to the New York jazz scene. The compositions on Falling, his second CD, are built around the kind of rhythmic intricacy so prevalent in academia-bred musicians (he graduated from the New School), but couched in a contemplative drift. His own playing is airy enough not to overwhelm the shimmering textures of vibraphonist Chris Dingman. Those two share the frontline with saxophonist Karel Ruzicka Jr., and between them delicately craft a fragile sound that doesn’t lack in assertiveness but is nimble enough not to shatter the mood of serenity that Ullmann carefully builds. Bassist Gary Wang and drummer Vinnie Sperazza add a rhythm bed that is supportive but flexible. The same band will be in tow for Ullmann’s late-night slot at Chris’.