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Zwee Dot: How Kelly Sill Listens to Music – Matt Ulery’s “The Air We Breathe”

by Kelly Sill

This month marks the return of the popular “Zwee Dot” column to Chicago Jazz Magazine. For this edition, Kelly Sill shares his listening notes to Matt Ulery’s “The Air We Breathe” from the October 15, 2019 release, Delicate Charms. Welcome back, Kelly!

“The Air We Breathe”

From the recording

Delicate Charms – Woolgathering Records

Matt Ulery – October 15, 2019

Greg Ward – Alto saxophone

Zach Brock – Violin

Rob Clearfield – Piano

Matt Ulery – Double bass

Quin Kirchner – Drums

00:02 And it begins

00:05 I like this

00:07 Very powerful intro

00:11 The figure itself got faster, though tempo stayed the same (hemiola)

00:15 Violin and saxophone enter, first playing the figure

00:19 And then playing a counter line

00:29 Piano takes over, still basically playing with the figure

00:38 Now starts a very strong melody, still based on the figure

00:51 The melody is beginning to be developed

00:59 The melody is beginning to get very interesting

01:08 And now they’re back to the opening figure and simple theme

01:21 This is different, although very strongly relying on the figure

01:29 A lot more interesting harmonic development here

01:38 Whoa! There is the opening theme again, though almost sounding angry

01:46 Now just piano plus rhythm

01:53 Piano solo; the first real improvisation in this piece

02:09 Nice exposition

02:20 Keeping a few simple themes

02:25 Now he just launched right into it

02:45 Digging into the changes it sounds like he’s coming down

03:00 It sounds like he’s coming down

03:06 And he did

03:09 Back to the opening figure on piano

03:17 Now the alto solo

03:20 He’s immediately into the changes

03:23 Quite a flurry of stuff

03:46 And now he’s slowing down some

04:03 Interesting development of the melody

04:16 Similar development between flurries

04:31 Same thing; clear development between flurries

04:37 Piano starts opening figure again

04:50 That was interesting; solo continued through the figure

04:57 And now the solo continues

05:06 Back to the changes

05:13 Sounds like he’s coming down

05:25 I was wrong

05:36 Still embedded in the solo

05:50 Nice mutual improv

06:04 More exposition of a theme between flurries

06:07 And there is the opening figure again

06:15 Everyone is in on the figure

06:24 Similar to the opening theme

06:28 Now just piano

06:39 Now everyone is in

06:42 The out-head

07:11 The figure again

07:19 It was part of the out-head

07:36 Nice

07:39 The angry figure

07:54 Just like the in-head

07:57 And it just stops; another great cut!


Kelly Sill has been a mainstay of the Chicago jazz scene for more than 35 years. After receiving his bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he returned to Chicago. 

He has since performed and recorded with a vast array of jazz artists, including Art Blakey, Joe Henderson, Art Farmer, Eddie Jefferson, Clark Terry, Cedar Walton, Herb Ellis, Woody Shaw, Hank Jones, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel, Chris Potter, Ernie Watts, Bob Mintzer, Mel Torme, Anita O'Day, Janice Borla, Jack Mouse, Jackie McLean, Joey DeFrancesco, Donald Byrd, Bobby Watson, Eddie Harris, Scott Hamilton, Victor Lewis, Clifford Jordan, Bucky Pizzarelli, and many more. 

He has performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival, the Elkhart Jazz Festival, the Red Sea Jazz Festival, Thessaloniki Concert Hall in Greece, and Symphony Center in Chicago. 

Kelly has served on the faculties of Northeastern Illinois University, Lake Forest College, DePaul University, and Northern Illinois University. For questions or comments please contact him at or visit his website at

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