Peter Margasak on Chicago Reader

CF 140Critic’s Choice Recommended The List (Music)
Herculaneum (CF 140)
When: Sun., July 12, 10 p.m.
Phone: 773-935-2118
Price: donation requested
Solid, consistent connections between Chicago’s indie-rock and free-jazz communities have existed for nearly two decades now, and no group embodies them like Herculaneum, a jazz band led by drummer Dylan Ryan—whose other projects include Icy Demons, Bronze, and Michael Columbia. Saxophonist Dave McDonnell, Ryan’s bandmate in Michael Columbia, also cofounded Bablicon; flutist and reedist Nate Lepine, a recent addition to the group, has played for Cursive, Manishevitz, and Head of Femur, among others. But they’re not just farting around with jazz when they don’t have rock shows to play, and they prove it with the superb new Herculaneum III (Clean Feed). Ryan’s tunes have never been more elegant, and his resourceful arrangements make the band sound much larger than it is—which is saying something, since the current lineup is a sextet, rounded out by trombonist Nick Broste, trumpeter Patrick Newbery, and bassist Greg Danek. The four front-line players all make excellent use of their solo space—particularly the hot-blowing McDonnell, who’s something of a wild card, and Broste, who’s got a fat tone, a lyrical style, and a broad knowledge of the instrument’s history in jazz. But just as rewarding (and more impressive) is the dense ensemble writing, which not only helps propel the soloists but gives each piece a multifaceted richness, with different sections in the same tune drawing on traditions as disparate as postbop and contemporary classical.

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