ULU | 01.25.02 | ROCHESTER

When I think of the band ulu, the one word that comes to mind is energy, and with energy comes direction. Ulu seems to be fully directed by the energy they have among themselves, but also more importantly, the energy they get from the crowd. I arrived at Milestones early, and the place looked rather bare, but as it got closer and closer to 11 o’clock, people started to file in at an exponential rate. Mainly the crowd was made up of college-aged kids, and it seemed that everyone was ready to boogie.

They started out with some stranger than strange vocal funk, and put everyone in the necessary mind frame to let loose on a ride with ULU. I was ready and Aaron Gardner took it away immediately when he picked up his saxophone. Backed by the melodic framework of Scott Chasolen on the Rhodes, Clavinet, Organ and Moog, Aaron kept the jazzy feel present throughout the night, without neglecting the funk. But he certainly wasn’t the one leading the show the whole time; Aaron and Scott are backed by a powerful and funky rhythm section made up of David Hoffman (drums) and Justin Wallace (bass). From time to time, Aaron and Scott would alternate and take turns as the “leader," and in other instances Scott’s heavy Herbie Hancock influenced style would take over. This was especially apparent in the cover of “Hang Up Your Hang Ups,” where Scott took over letting the funk reign supreme just as Herbie himself would have.

The second set was a bit stronger than the first, largely due to the increase in the crowd by that point in the evening, and the heightened energy level. They came out firing with a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” which led smoothly into “Prince Igor” allowing Justin to really show off his skills on the bass. This song was very smooth and jazzy, but at times it would suddenly wake up your buns and cause you to dance once again. They continued to give us the complete and full funk-it-ization throughout the rest of the set, really stepping it up with “Preble” which followed “Prince Igor.” “Preble” was very uplifting and got the whole house grooving to the funky beats with happy overtones coming from Aaron’s horn.

Next they gave us a short break from hard dancing with “The Oracle,” which was a very relaxing jazzy tune with great range of tone coming from Aaron. This set the mood for the next bust-out, “Tomorrow Never Knows” by none other than the Beatles. Ulu’s version definitely had the funk all over it and it certainly had everyone moving once again, sucking the energy out of every person in the room. “Perkulator Merkins” came back to Scott with his super-funky organ and once again Aaron kept the vibe bouncy and happy with his energetic saxophone. After “All You Can Eat,” they busted out an ever so wonderful nostalgic treat, the “Super Mario Bros. Theme.” The Mario theme has it all, memories, funk, booty shake factor, and more. Basically it forced me to remember my Nintendo games growing up, and how important Super Mario Brothers was to every kid on the block. Very creative for a band to cover such a tune, and I think it made a lot of people in the room happy and excited.

The encore led to Ulu giving up the last bit of their energy along with the crowd's, in a back and forth rap during “Djabooty,” where Justin was dared to drop his pants, and he obliged! Everyone was floored by his openness and comedic expressions. It had everyone leaving the place with a sort of confused smile on his or her face. All in all, a great show and I recommend checking out Ulu when they’re in your neck of the woods. Check out Ulu's Home for tour dates and more information.

Ian Stone
JamBase | New York
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[Published on: 1/28/02]

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