Herculaneum – 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