Tag Archives: Greg Danek

Cadence Magazien review by Phillip McNally

(1) Herculaneum – Herculaneum III (CF 140)
(2) Oliver Leicht – Raume
(3) Taylor Ho Bynum / Abraham Gomez-Delgado – Positive Catastrophe

All three of these recording are worth searching out. But then, I have to confess to a real weakness for the kind of small ensemble or little big band sound that even the 10tet Positive Catastrophe represents. For me, this size of ensemble and this sensibility continues to present some of the most creative opportunities to make exciting music in Jazz.

I’m guessing by the title “III” that this is the third recording of Herculaneum, but (1) is the first time I’ve heard them. It is a nice lineup of two brass, two reeds, with a guitar-led rhythm section, plus three of these players double on another instrument, increasing the arranger’s palette. The nine new compositions here, most of them by drummer and vibes player Dylan Ryan, come right out of the Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan school of Cool Jazz, but this is no retro ensemble. In particular, David McDonnell’s alto sax can have a loose and outside sensibility, a bit like some of Steve Coleman’s work. They are a fine band, and I will be out looking for albums II and I.

Oliver Leicht leads an 8tet called [ACHT.] on (2). It’s really a 7tet of brass and rhythm over which Leicht’s rich, woody clarinet bounces joyfully. The low end horn section is amazingly tight, and the voicings Leicht writes for French horn, euphonium, trombone, and tuba are all warm and fat. Plus the rhythm trio is lithe and fresh, swinging without a lot of flashiness. They make a nice post-Bop big band sound, inside but always interesting and never lost in long solo flights. Again those Birth of the Cool sessions come to mind, but as with (1), Leicht and company have a looser and more post Ornette sense of harmony, and that makes (2) both new and worth your time.

Finally, Positive Catastrophe is an exciting project. The co-leaders are Taylor Ho Bynum, who brings along his progressive Jazz creds, and Abraham Gomez-Delgado, whose work comes out if the progressive Latino bands scene in New York City. It might sound like an odd combination, but all these cats can play, and the results on (3) have got a bit of Microscopic 7tet in them, and a heavy dose of the fun and the complexity of Sun Ra, too. Jen Shyu has a fine alto voice, and plays the June Tyson role on all four parts of “Travels,” the band’s tribute to the Arkestra. But she sings a more straight, big band vocal on “Stillness/Life” and she plays the erhu throughout, as well. “Revamped” features her erhu with Keith Witty’s acoustic bass and Pete Fitzpatrick’s electric guitar for a sort of Lounge Lizards style string summit. The Latin touch that Gomez-Delgado and his associates bring to the music is a subtle but solid ground for the Spaceship Ho Bynum leads. There’s nothing quite like it that I’ve heard. Their roots go back to Don Cherry’s MultiKulti, and there is more than a little of all the great works on the Asian Improv label here too. But (3) got its own sound, and a beautiful one at that. I certainly hope Positive Catastrophe is no one time project, because Jazz needs a whole lot more of what these cats can bring! Go out and find it. www.cadencebuilding.com ©Cadence Magazine 2010

Temporary Fault review by Massimo Ricci

A Pair Of Not So Recent Clean Feeds
With many more to come (…). This makes me think that roundup reviews are not so useful after all. In the future I won’t wait for publishing a write-up until having listened eight CDs of the same label. It’s probably better to break them in smaller groups, or it could take years…

TRINITY – Breaking The Mold (CF 139)
A Norwegian quartet mingling dissimilar influences – jazz, space rock, harsh electronica – through predominantly jarring procedures that could appear scarcely lucid on a first try, but instead let slip a substantial degree of imagination. Ultimately, and most important, Trinity don’t sound like anything else (at least in the Clean Feed catalogue). All the four members have gone through the most disparate kind of collaboration: Jaga Jazzist to Mats Gustafsson, Raoul Bjorkenheim to Nate Wooley, the leader – saxophonist and clarinettist Kjetil Møster – a metal rock bassist in his past, before switching to reeds. Implausible yet efficient solutions abound, powerful sax blasts juxtaposed with half-ethereal, half-acrid atonal keyboard fluids (Morten Qvenild) that possess the rare gift of not sounding like an amassment of presets. The “rhythm section” – bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Thomas Strønen – is in actuality half of a palette where abstraction, violence, rituality and persuasive soloing succeed, seemingly in lack of a definite compositional planning. The complete nonexistence of ambassadorial accents and inconclusively politic neutrality typical of a fat chunk of contemporary jazz brings the whole to an acceptable balance, though. After a couple of spins one realizes that these bizarre sonic concoctions cannot be filed in the archive of banality, despite the difficulty of welcoming them with real infatuation. In any case Trinity deserve attention, if only for their different sound and explorative curiosity.

HERCULANEUM – Herculaneum III (CF 140)
Given the presence of a flute (Nate Lepine) and the album title, one would think about Focus. But this record is more like a finely detailed replica of certain past atmospheres involving medium-sized jazz combos and larger orchestral entities, the music skilfully devised in absolute respect for the tradition, lush arrangements and extensive solo sections alternated with sapience and sensitiveness. The large part of the tracks were written by drummer and vibraphonist Dylan Ryan, which might appear as an oddity but it’s not, the music possessing indeed an effervescent pulse that animates scores where, in some circumstances, the tremendous contrapuntal richness might induce someone to think to relative sluggishness. In that sense, David Mcdonnell (alto sax, clarinet), Nick Broste (trombone) and Patrick Newbery (trumpet and flugelhorn) provide a significant miscellany of non-invasive colloquialism and management of virtuosity, gratifying the ears with a melange of piquancy and obedience. Guitarist John Beard’s clean-toned rationality and bassist Greg Danek’s solidly corpulent presence complete an ensemble that consider revolution a dated concept while trying to revolutionize behind-the-times music. One can’t help but admit that listening to this attempt equals a lovely chat with a beautifully aged woman; even lovers of Frank Zappa’s The Grand Wazoo could find something palatable here. Good stuff.

All About Jazz review by Nic Jones

Herculaneum – Herculaneum III (CF 140)
In some respects what we have here is music that’s a step on from Jimmy Giuffre’s work in the 1950s, but if it’s the chamber music notion that unites the two bodies of work across the intervening half-century, it’s clear that this band marches to a rhythmically more vigorous aesthetic. The music is at times alive with a kind of tensile energy that similarly invalidates the Giuffre comparison, but what unites the two is a sense of exploration, of goals ill-defined and thus made all the more worthy of pursuit.
As much as anywhere else, this comes across on “Prosecco/mcv,” where looseness of rhythmic input is perhaps more compelling than the solo voices, especially when an off-kilter unison passage has the effect of forewarding David McDonnell’s alto sax solo. He’s clearly fired by what’s going on around him, though not to the extent that he resorts to screaming through his horn. The resulting collective fire is a refreshing one.

“Mahogany” has trace elements of the quartet Paul Desmond had with Jim Hall; the lyricism that was always a hallmark of that group is here in shades, but in his solo, guitarist John Beard favors a harder, less harmonically oblique approach than Hall.

Echoes of time-honored West Coast tropes are rife on “Egyptian Femme,” although in this case it’s the more abstract work of some of Shelly Manne’s groups that hold sway. This doesn’t matter anyway as such is the nature of the music these days that perhaps that represents one of the many avenues less explored.

The ensemble’s balance is best exemplified by “Red Dawn,” where the underlying anxiety of the line is offset by the deft handling of material. The chorale of the horns serves as a jump-off point for improvisation on the part of both McDonnell again on alto sax and trumpeter Patrick Newbery, whose sometimes quasi-militaristic phrasing conjures up the parade ground at some even more dystopian point in the future.

“Eyeball” is the piece least accommodating with the past. Meter is largely abandoned at first, in favor of vaguely ominous washes of sound, before things settle down in a less abstract vein. Again the horns serve a kind of choral purpose which sets them at odds with the rhythmic momentum, but the resulting tension, never resolved as it is, affords the soloists the greater freedom. http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=34763

Time Out Chicago review by Areif Sless-Kitain

CF 140Herculaneum – Herculaneum III (CF 140)
While many Chicago improvisers work in a number of outfits, Herculaneum’s Dylan Ryan is one of few locals to straddle the jazz and rock worlds. Two other acts the percussionist keeps time with—Icy Demons and Michael Columbia—are testament to his prowess, but with this vehicle, Ryan’s calling the shots, as on the fantastic new Herculaneum III.

The recent addition of Nate Lepine on flute adds an ethereal quality to the postbop proceedings. Familiar for his work in Cursive and Manishevitz, Lepine joins a powerful front line of trumpeter Patrick Newbery, trombonist Nick Broste and Ryan’s longtime collaborator David McDonnell on reeds—a tight-knit group whose colorful voicings light up any pub.

Whereas Herculaneum’s second album, Orange Blossom, revisited the elegant voicings and sprite improvisations found on countless albums on Blue Note and Prestige in the late ’50s and early ’60s, the thunderous III is far less easily categorized. The group swings through Afro-Cuban grooves (“The Sparrow”) and scales down to a small combo for moody dispatches like “Lavender Panther.” Ryan’s vibes work glows. These tightly coiled arrangements are free in spirit, if not in practice, held together by sturdy bassist Greg Danek. A collective focus drives Ryan’s band; no one’s in it to show off.

Tonight’s gig welcomes back McDonnell, who recently relocated to Cincinnati to pursue a doctorate. Already missed on the local circuit, he’s promised to return on occasion. His fleeting presence is bound to bring an added sense of urgency. http://chicago.timeout.com/articles/music/77538/herculaneum-at-skylark-concert-preview

Centerstage review by Scott Morrow

CF 140Herculaneum – Herculaneum III (CF 140)
An easygoing jazz septet with plenty of substance, Herculaneum excels with restrained rhythms and a nimble brass section—one that provides grooves with its occasionally wailing leads. This performance celebrates the release of the group’s newest disc, Herculaneum III, on Portuguese indie label Clean Feed Records. At times, III is a bit more “out” than its predecessor, Orange Blossom, and it often emphasizes the flute work of Nate Lepine, who doubles as the band’s tenor saxophonist. But a track like “Italian Ice” is as cool as its name, and the group typically dispatches its members in miniature arrangements instead of layering for cacophonous effect. As for those members, each is an esteemed (and busy) member of the local music scene, meaning that Herculaneum doesn’t perform often. Be sure not to miss this one.