• Recommended: David Ullmann 8 – “Corduroy”

    Bird is the Worm
    David Sumner
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    Using the thought & form of 1970s TV show theme songs as his inspiration point, guitarist David Ullmann put together one of the more melodically rich albums in 2014. The melodies on Corduroy have a memorable quality that rivals those of that decade’s classic themes. However, what seals the deal is Ullmann’s thoughtful attention to the way in which harmony pushes the sale of the melodies on an album where, really, the melodies sell themselves.

    He opens things with the upbeat “The Chase,” a tune with a hard charging Rockford Files tempo. Making use of his entire cast, Ullmann builds plenty of room for soloists to step up and drive. “Ocelot” isn’t far removed, but works a Barney Miller groove instead of a determined beat. “Papaya,” too, scoots right along, but with a Chico & The Man optimism.

    Title-track “Corduroy” takes it nice and easy, some shuffle and some sway and the warm embrace of a Welcome Back, Kotter. There’s a nifty shift in tempo, too, on “Something You Said,” but here it performs a WKRP switch between a darting motion and smooth glides. The sadness of “You Can’t Go Back” has an incongruous warmth that fits like a pea in the same pod with M*A*S*H “Suicide is Painless.”

    “Champ” staggers into the room, each step an unpredictable one. But then it gets its engine going and dives headlong into a Starsky & Hutch car chase, especially in the appealing way the different instruments stagger atop one another near its conclusion, intertwining in the most fascinating pattern, much in the same way car engines, crashes, and gun shots blend into the cop show theme groove.

    The album ends with “Moving On,” a song that bleeds the imagery of a late-night taxi cab crossing the Queensboro Bridge at the end of its shift and heading down New York streets just beginning to drift off to sleep. It’s a logical, lovely way to roll the credits on this very fun album.

    Your album personnel: David Ullmann (guitar), Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Brian Drye (trombone), Mike McGinnis (clarinet), Loren Stillman (alto sax), Chris Dingman (vibraphone), Gary Wang (bass) and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums).

  • Corduroy Highly Recommended by Dave Sumner/Bird Is the Worm

    Wondering Sound
    Dave Sumner
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    On his newest, guitarist Ullmann looks to the TV show theme songs from the 70s for his emotional template. As such, he’s crafted songs with a thick melody likely to stick, jaunty rhythms that carry the listener gently away, and, like many of those classic themes, a hint of the melancholy, whose goal is to inspire a bit of contemplation rather than sadness. Ullmann’s 8 is an all-star line-up of modern artists, including clarinetist Mike McGinnis, saxophonist Loren Stillman, vibraphonist Chris Dingman, trombonist Brian Drye, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, bassist Gary Wang, and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza. A whole of those names are involved in other projects that look back in time while simultaneously expressing themselves with a look to the future, so the success of this project should come as no surprise. Hearing album track “Moving On,” I couldn’t help but think of a wide shot of a taxi cruising over a bridge as both the shift and the night are coming to a close. A very thoughtful and very fun recording. Highly Recommended.

  • DownBeat, October 2014

    DownBeat Magazine
    Ken Micallef
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    Regarding his new album, Corduroy, guitarist David Ullmann said, “My last album was about making music that was more challenging, but with Corduroy I just wanted to make music that I like.” Ullmann’s remark could describe the New York City jazz experience, where challenging music can be heard every night. But jazz as easily enjoyable as a great pop tune? That’s another story, the kind that fills Corduroy.

    A relative newcomer to New York City — he’s released two previous leader projects, 2005’s Hidden and 2012’s Falling — Ullmann’s standard technique and clean tone are practically a rarity, and a welcome one. Ullmann calls Corduroy a tribute to 1970s TV theme songs. Nothing here recalls “The Streets of San Francisco” or “Sanford and Son,” but rather the sentimental afterglow those soundtrack classics evoke. Surrounded by an exceptional octet — vibraphonist Chris Dingman, saxophonist Loren Stillman, trombonist Brian Drye, cornetist Kirk Knuffke, clarinetist Mike McGinnis, drummer Vinnie Sperrazza and bassist Gary Wang — Ullmann sets Corduroy‘s tone with opener “The Chase,” a title that suggests Bullitt, but whose playfully ethereal mood is more contemporary European than early ’70s San Francisco.

    The title track sports a friendly eighth-note groove and a simple melody, one you could imagine as a ’70s them song. “Ocelot” increases the tension and tempo, Sperrazza’s driving cymbals and Dingman’s mallet-work grounding the song’s funky melodic accents while McGinnis’ snorting bass clarinet solo pushes its stylistic envelope. “Champ” is as sprightly as Gregory Hines dancing tap; “You Can’t Go Back” floats via Dingman’s glowing vibraphone and Ullmann’s lyrical solo.

    Apparently, for David Ullmann, you can go back home again.

  • David Adler’s Six Picks, September 2014

    New York City Jazz Record
    David Adler
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    Monthly list of recommended CDs, as published in The New York City Jazz Record, September 2014. 

    Jorrit Dijkstra, Music for Reeds and Electronics: Oakland (Driff)
    Orrin Evans, Liberation Blues (Smoke Sessions)
    Eric Harland’s Voyager, Vipassana (GSI)
    Tom Harrell, TRIP (HighNote)
    Kirk Knuffke & Jesse Stacken, Five (SteepleChase)
    David Ullmann 8, Corduroy (ind.)

  • Village Voice Top Picks

    The Village Voice
    Jim Macnie
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    There’s a jaunty vibe to the music on the guitarist’s new Corduroy, and it’s fetching. It’s also a bit of a surprise. It’s not often that an octet playing arranged music comes off informal, unfettered by design. Hats off to Ullmann the arranger/composer, who was inspired by TV show themes of his youth on this one. Melody is up front here, buoying all the action, of which there’s plenty.

  • New York Times Jazz Listings for Aug. 22-28

    New York Times
    Nate Chinen
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    For his new album, “Corduroy,” the guitarist David Ullmann sought inspiration in an unlikely place: the theme songs from the television shows of his youth, in the 1970s. But rather than covering those themes, he set out to recreate their mood in original compositions, enlisting musicians like the trombonist Brian Drye, the multireedist Mike McGinnis and the vibraphonist Chris Dingman, who rejoin him here. At 8:30 p.m., Cornelia Street Café, 29 Cornelia Street, Greenwich Village, 212-989-9319,; $10 cover, with a $10 minimum. (Chinen)

  • Review of Corduroy
    Ron Hart
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    For many children of the 1970s, television was a key proponent to any kind of jazz to which they were exposed.

    Whether it was Sesame Street and Fat Albert or sitcoms like Barney Miller and Taxi or such era-appropriate cop shows as Cannon and Mannix, the music showcased on these programs arguably had just as much of an influence on a generation of jazz musicians as Kind of Blue and A Love Supreme. Any fan of deep crate hip-hop will be quick to recognize the orchestrations of Bob James, Tom Scott, Lalo Schifrin and Jack Elliott from some of their favorite beats, no doubt.

    However, when this fusion of warmth, aesthetic and groove is being recreated in real time by a group of musicians as fluid in CBS as they are in CTI, it simply doesn’t get any better. And on the third album from guitarist Dave Ullmann, he turns his 16-mm memories of growing up in Abraham Beame’s Manhattan to life with the help of an equally nostalgic octet of New York City’s finest players of the modern age, namely such proven leaders as trombonist Brian Drye, Mike McGinnis on clarinet and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza.

    The pure strength of this large ensemble, further enhanced by cornetist Kirk Knuffke, Chris Dingman on the vibes, alto sax player Loren Stillman and Gary Wang on the double-bass, is clear on quality original material like “The Chase” and “Ocelot”, conjuring high speed car chases down obscure streets in pre-gentrified Brooklyn in an old Ford Granada. Meanwhile, you can identify the nostalgic sentiments of old home movies of kids playing out in the street in the arrangements of “Moving On.”

    For the throwback network crime pilot in your mind, Corduroy is indeed the perfect soundtrack.

  • Time Out New York, Critics’ Pick

    Time Out New York
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    Guitarist David Ullmann presents his luminous compositions at a release party for new album Corduroy, which features smooth, songful pieces inspired by ’70s-TV themes. Count on the heavy supporting cast, including clarinetist Chris Speed, vibraphonist Chris Dingman and trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, to bring these plush works to vivid life.

  • Step Tempest, August 2014

    Richard B. Kamins
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    I recommend that, before you listen to “Corduroy” (Little Sky Records), the 3rd CD from guitarist/composer David Ullmann, you go to his website – – and check out the video in which and members of his David Ullmann 8 speak about the making of the CD.  You’ll meet drummer Vinnie Sperrazza, vibraphonist Chris Dingman (both of whom played on his previous album “Falling“) plus saxophonist Loren Stillman, clarinetist Mike McGinnis, and cornetist Kirk Knuffke (trombonist Brian Drye and bassist Gary Wang – who also played on “Falling” – round out the octet.) And, you will meet Mr. Ullmann who smiles a lot while talking about his band.

    That genial attitude permeates the music on “Corduroy“, songs which the composer says were influenced by TV show theme songs from the 1970s (such as “M.A.S.H.” and “Taxi”).  This music is filled with singable melodies; just try to listen to the title track without wanting to hum along. Sperrazza’s fine cymbal work lights up the proceedings on “Ocelot“, especially during the fine solos by Drye and McGinnis (both of whom play in The 4 Bags) – the “bang” of the snare drum also stands out when it leads the charge into Knuffke’s solo. There’s just a hint of Steely Dan in the opening section of “Something You Said” and wonderful West Coast bop turn on “Papaya.” Both tracks feature exemplary guitar playing, the former for its quietly rippling single-note runs while Ullmann’s rhythm playing shines on the latter (Dingman’s vibes solo really impresses as does Stillman’s strong alto work and, of course, Knuffke contributes another fine solo.) The soulful ballad “You Can’t Go Back” is a well-constructed composition, with a sweet melody, fine harmonies and short solos from the leader, Knuffke and Wang.  Still, it’s the emotional quality of the song that will resonate long after you finish listening.

    The closing track, the aptly titled “Moving On“, is also a strong ballad.  The piece seems influenced by Wayne Horvitz, especially the voicings of the reeds and brass.  The melody moves around the front line before Drye and Stillman play solo lines that weave around each other. Following that, the guitar, bass clarinet and cornet follow the same format until their lines merge and the opening melody returns.  It’s one of the prettiest pieces you’ll hear this year (and, perhaps, for a long time to come).

    Corduroy” is comfortable music, great to get lost in (the passionate playing of Vinnie Sperrazza immediately catches your ear with the melodies a close second).  Every musician in the David Ullmann 8 is involved in the success of this music.  The music seems to float effortlessly from the speakers, with the perfect balance of fire and calm, solos and ensemble playing.  One can understand why David Ullmann smiles so much in the video – you will as well.  For more information, go to

  • Jazz Times, September 2014 Issue

    Jazz Times
    Shaun Brady
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    Too often, when a jazz composer draws upon a specific conceptual inspiration, the link between that source and the music itself seems tenuous at best, impossible to determine without the aid of copious liner notes. But slipping David Ullmann’s Corduroy into the CD player for the first time without glancing at the accompanying press release, the dark, spiraling theme of opener “The Chase” immediately called to mind memories of TV detective shows of yore, with trenchcoated figures pursuing shady criminals in clunky, boat-sized cars.

    Sure enough, vintage television themes are a primary inspiration for Ullmann on his new album, whose title refers back to the textured pants of the same era. Nostalgia is a primary emotion running through Corduroy, but that’s not to suggest that the disc is in any way retro or backward looking. Instead, the guitarist-composer has used the sounds of his pop-culture past to color a strong octet set, with memorable melodies prompting thoughtful solos from a band able to slide easily from pocket to orbit.

    That includes cornet player Kirk Knuffke, who views the soft-rock-inspired title track through Herb Alpert-colored glasses but without a trace of irony; Brian Drye, whose darting trombone reaches into the tight spaces of the percolating funk groove on “Ocelot,” which also features Mike McGinnis’ agile and adventurous bass clarinet; and frequent Ullmann collaborator Chris Dingman, whose vibes use the stabbing little-big-band swing of “Papaya” as a sonic trampoline. Not shy about professing his Jim Hall influence, Ullmann plays with patience and soul, building lines from the steady accumulation of resonant single notes on “Champ” and wringing the poignancy from the swaying ballad “You Can’t Go Back.”