ulu | 10.02.01 | Metro Cafe | Washington, DC
Setlist: K9 Brigade, Mouthlove, Jitterfried, Braintree> Canteena Theme, Rising Circles, The Monkey Fungus, The Rear Bench, Hang Ups, Personaface, Super Mario Bros., Grape
E: People Make the World Go Round
The growth of this group both collectively and as individuals has taken some really interesting turns in the past few performances that I’ve caught and this evening proved that and much more. ulu has always shown very mature prowess in both execution and composition, yet they retain a loose and very entertaining vibe throughout each show.
Staples like “K9 Brigade,” “Braintree,” “Hang Up Your Hang Ups” (Herbie Hancock), and “People Make the World Go Round” all propelled the evening and got the room throbbing. Compositions like “Rising Circles,” “Grape” and “Personaface” show the harmonic depth at which the group is moving in it’s recent playing, while tunes like “The Monkey Fungus,” “Canteena Theme,” and “Super Mario Bros.” provided some great variety in the set.
The uncompromising ulu took the stage around 10:30 and began to situate. Within fifteen minutes or so sounds began to emanate from the stage. After a brief sound check the group moved into some dialogue oriented exploration. One of the greatest things about ulu is their ability to communicate so freely within the audible space they occupy. Similar to a pair of comfortable jeans (or khakis if that floats your boat) that just feel right, and give you enough room to breathe. They’re all such intent listeners that they keep the music unfolding on the edge, but at no time does it ever sound forced or contrived.
Each player in the group pushes the others to excel, and this is ever apparent in their arrangement and execution of tunes like “Canteena Theme,” and “Super Maro Bros.” Aaron Gardner (tenor saxophone, flute) has a very unique style that lies somewhere between Skerik, Coltrane, Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter. From the “out” sounds and loops he sets up through his Boomerang looping pedal, to the harmonic sweeps that serve as an integral part of the group’s sound, to the dirty horn shouts reminiscent of Herbie Hancock’s Warner Brothers Recordings (the music recorded for the cartoon “Fat Albert”), and last but certainly not least the spiritually soulful lines that he can place in those delicate moments. Scott Chasolen (Rhodes, clavinet, organ, and Moog) displays much patience, a down right dirty urban feel, and the harmonic sensibility of Herbie Hancock. It is amazing how much reservation he utilizes diving into a solo. Certainly the kind of player that waits for the muse to speak through him, Scott has a very organic and ever-expanding style to his playing that is many years beyond his age.
Justin Wallace (bass) is just one of the heaviest bass players around right now. As cliché as the term “pocket” has become Justin defines it. The space between the notes that are played is what separates the men from the boys (aka “the pocket”)... especially on bass where restraint is necessary to facilitate a groove. Justin just lays into some serious space, and at no time is ever overbearing. It is very nice to see his part in the newer compositions has become a bit more lyrical and full opening up more ground for the other players to explore. You can literally see the switch flip when Justin settles on stage and it’s all business from there on out. Last, but certainly not least, Dave Hoffman (drums) combines the power of someone like Billy Cobham with the rhythmic awareness of a player like Jabo Starks. Dave provides the bounce that just makes you stand up or stop mid sentence and get down. Just as the other players Dave provides some exquisite patience in backing up the other players, and allows the organic growth of each solo to develop unbridled. Don’t let the title “rhythm section” fool you though both Justin and Dave are very accomplished soloists, and both have a very gifted lyrical solo style.
This evening at the Metro Cafe was certainly a great release for all those in attendance, and a great way to start out a tour for ulu. As they returned to the stage for an encore Scott had some thoughtful words about the recent tragedy and how people need to stick together leading into the encore “People Make the World Go Round.” The group left the crowd certainly weak in the knees and uplifted. ulu will be on tour over the next month culminating in a Halloween show at The Knitting Factory in NYC, and some dates in early November supporting the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Visit ulu on JamBase for more information on tour dates and the release of their upcoming album entitled What’s the Deal on Catapult Records.
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