The David Ullmann Group – Sometime [TrackList follows] – Little Sky Records LSR02 59:56 [11/16/18] ****:
It’s not every musician who gets to go back in time and make something better than it was. Essentially, that is what guitarist David Ullmann has done on his fourth album, the hour-long, nine-track Sometime. Ullmann revisited an unreleased organ trio recording he did nearly 12 years ago with drummer Vin Scialla (who has also worked with JD Allen, Vernon Reid, Eric Revis and more) and organist Joe Ashlar (a busy New Orleans keyboardist). Over the years, Ullmann’s musical perspective and viewpoint has widened, and he decided to take the basic trio tunes and expand them with a plethora of musicians including trombonist Brian Drye (NYC groups Bizingas and The Four Bags), saxophonist Mike McGinnis (also The Four Bags; and credits include Art Lande and Steve Swallow), trumpeter Jeff Hermanson (Lonnie Plaxico) and others. The result is a unique project which balances a youthful uninhibitedness and energy with a multifaceted and older inventiveness.
Ullmann’s compositional skills run through eight cuts; there’s also a cover of Wayne Shorter’s “Adam’s Apple.” The CD opens with the warm and grooving “Slipstream,” where the guitar, drums and organ are complemented by Hermanson’s trumpet, Drye’s trombone, McGinnis’ sax and Bryn Roberts’ Wurlitzer. Listening to this new arrangement it’s hard to imagine it wasn’t meant to sound just like it does. There’s an Asian fusion undertone to the six-minute “Tapping at the Knit,” with Neel Murgai’s sitar slipping in and out of the enticing grooveathon. The exotic elements become more pronounced on the modally-shifting “March,” where Murgai’s Indian instruments come to the forefront and Roberts lends a slightly psychedelic edge via extra keyboards. “March” also has an amiable foundation where Ashlar’s Hammond organ and Ullmann’s guitar offer cordiality. Sitar is also a solid part of the otherworldly and lightly funky “When,” which is sieved through a hazy daze like the intoxicating sensation of that second cocktail on a night out. Little details like the blurred Wurlitzer, Snehasish Mozumder’s unexpected mandolin and Scialla’s trippy percussive effects supplement the fermented feel.
A few lengthier pieces provide a somewhat different standpoint. An eight-minute rendition of Shorter’s “Adam’s Apple” sustains a soulful sense by means of organ (Ashler’s fiery improvisation is a must-hear), drums and guitar with overdubbed trombone, trumpet, Ben Lapidus’ tres (a guitar-like chordophone of Cuban origin) and Chris Dingman’s vibes. The ten-minute “Reckon” has a smoky, late-night ambiance driven by Rex Benincasa’s interesting percussion, Ullmann’s effects-tinted guitar sounds and Ashlar’s vivid organ embellishments. It’s intriguing Ullmann chose not to put horns into this psychedelically-sprinkled opus, which evokes the jazzier side of the San Francisco Haight-Ashbury era. The heady groove returns on the concluding and appropriately-titled “Grant’s Groove,” which hits a soulful stance with horns helping alongside guitar, drums, organ, the tres, mandolin and vibes. When the 6:35 track comes to an end, it feels like a full work-out has finished. Ullman’s previous albums have shown many diverse aspects of his musical personality. Sometime may be his best to date.
David Ullmann – guitar; Vin Scialla – drums; Joe Ashlar – organ; Rex Benincasa – percussion; Brian Drye – trombone (tracks 1, 2, 4-6, 9); Mike McGinnis – tenor and alto saxophone (tracks 1, 4, 9); Jeff Hermanson – trumpet (tracks 1, 2, 4-6, 9); Oscar Noriega – alto saxophone and bass clarinet (tracks 2, 6); Josh Plotner – tenor and alto saxophone, flute (track 9); Bryn Roberts – Wurlitzer, synth (tracks 1, 3, 5, 7- 8); Ben Lapidus – tres (tracks 6, 9); Snehasish Mozumder – mandolin (tracks 5, 9); Neel Murgai – sitar, daf, tamboura (tracks 2-3, 5, 7); Chris Dingman – vibraphone (tracks 2, 4, 6, 9)
Tapping at the Knit
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