New York City guitarist-composer David Ullmann has assembled an all-star quintet for the recording of his second album as a group leader: Falling, a collection of seven new Ullmann compositions, on Wet Cash Records.
Featuring: David Ullmann (guitar), Chris Dingman (vibes), Gary Wang (bass), Karel Ruzicka Jr. (saxophone), Vinnie Sperrazza (drums)
“I wanted to push myself to the limits with this album,” says David Ullmann, a graduate of the New School Jazz program and a lifelong New Yorker who’s been on the scene since the early 2000s. “I really wanted to strip away my previous comfort zones.” On the morning of one of the recording sessions, while driving from his Manhattan apartment to Bennett Studios in New Jersey, Ullmann recalls feeling an extreme sense of creative urgency. “I was riding over the George Washington Bridge and really feeling the challenge I had given to myself for this album,” he says. “I was searching for inspiration as I listened to some of the great players—Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall—and I was hoping to have their vibes sink in as we drew closer to the studio.”
As a group leader, Ullmann has played many of NYC’s prestigious music venues, including the Blue Note, The Knitting Factory, Detour Jazz Club, The 55 Bar, and Barbes. He’s worked with many accomplished musicians, such as Loren Stillmann, Kirk Knuffke, and Snehasish Mozumder, and studied under guitarists Peter Bernstein and Vic Juris. He’s also worked extensively as a sideman, playing lead guitar in numerous bands, most recently for world electronica groups Flyin Fisch and mission: on mars. His first recording as a leader, Hidden, was released in 2005.
To ensure that his playing was pushed in a radical direction on this latest release, he chose to work with improvisors who would challenge him, and, ultimately, elevate his new compositions in unpredictable ways. Chris Dingman, one of the most celebrated young vibraphonists on the scene today, is known for his work with Fieldwork saxophonist Steve Lehman, and his debut album, Waking Dreams, placed on several 2011 year-end lists (e.g., Jazz Times, The New York City Jazz Record, and The New York Times). Bassist Gary Wang has built a strong reputation for many years working alongside acclaimed Israeli pianist-composer Anat Fort. Award-winning saxophonist Karel Ruzicka Jr. has played on more than 100 albums and has worked with Ravi Coltrane, Roy Hargrove, and George Benson. Finally, drummer Vinnie Sperrazza has played with Tony Malaby, Joe McPhee, and Jim Black, and his trio released Barcelona Holiday in 2010.
“They’re all superb improvisors capable of expressing tremendous amounts of passion with their playing” says Ullmann. “They’re very adventurous soloists who manage to bring their own unique musical perspectives to modern jazz structures.”
Most importantly, these four musicians excel at creating music that “transports” listeners, which was one of Ullmann’s main goals. From the dream-like passages of “When,” where Sperrazza’s cymbal groove leads to fiery solos by Ullmann, Ruzicka Jr., and Dingman, to the blissful display of collective melody that unfolds on “Gesture,” Falling truly is an extraordinary musical journey. “I love that feeling of unpredictable movement,” says Ullmann. “I really wanted to capture the idea of getting lost within the music—to explore falling into some mood, or sound, and being temporarily transported.”