Saxophonist Nick Gerlach Unveils ‘Concrete Lullaby’, Debut EP From THE CULTET

In late June, Denver-based saxophonist Nick Gerlach released the Concrete Lullaby EP with his trio The Cultet, a newly-minted group featuring drummer Neal Evans (Dopapod), and Florida-expat Tommy Shugart (keys). A trifecta of vibrant, exploratory numbers, Concrete Lullaby represents the subtle ebb and flow between heavier and lighter musical movements and energies. It’s the first solo release from Gerlach as a bandleader after years with Indiana’s Turbo Suit, and later a supporting role in Michal Menert & the Pretty Fantastics.

The Concrete Lullaby project began with the saxophonist (and co-host/foil of wildly-popular Andy Frasco’s World Saving Podcast) seeking to record his ethereal arrangement of Soundgarden’s iconic “Black Hole Sun” with some capable cats in his circle. After rounding together a couple of killers in Evans and Shugart, soon the endeavor blossomed into something a bit more expansive, including a pair of original compositions in “Haddonfield” and “Waltzing into the Apocalypse”.



The saxophonist reflected on why “Black Hole Sun” was the jumping off point:

“It’s my favorite grunge song. I was really interested in giving it a new twist sonically, outlining how well the vocal range of grunge works on tenor sax. It started as a reharmonization project but I slowly realized the song doesn’t really need to be reharmed. I still kept the original form of the song, and pretty much the same chord changes – except on the outro.” said Gerlach.

With much motivation and the material to match, the rest of Concrete Lullaby was tracked in one four-hour session at Rocky Mountain Recorders in Denver. Gerlach then added synths and effects from his home studio to bring the document to fruition, with mixing/mastering handled by Chris Harden.

On the recording process of his original tunes: “I charted out my two songs, and had Neal and Tommy play them down in a couple takes on the session. I think the fact that they were new added to the tension and energy in the recordings; because Neal and Tommy weren’t overly comfortable with the tunes, which I feel can be a drawback for some recordings.” said Gerlach.

photo: Keith Griner

“Haddonfield” crystallizes two disparate concepts: both a nod to the Halloween horror-film franchise’s haunted hometown, as well as a wah-wah homage to Gerlach’s saxophone hero, the late, great Eddie Harris. “Haddonfield” deals in dark, gothic dance music, a driving pulse and sinister ethos, dredging up memories of the maniacal Michael Myers hunting high-schoolers.

The third track leans a little bit political, as much as instrumental music possibly can. Gerlach explains his intentions and modus operandi on “Waltzing to the Apocalypse”.

“I wanted to write a song that’s light and whimsical at first, then descends into chaos. This symbolizes how comfortable we are in our culture, and how we may be careening towards something awful if we don’t pay attention. A classic waltz, but added some Danny Elfman-esque modal interchanges to make the chorus a little eerie, symbolizing the chaos soon to come. The ending… is the apocalypse.” said Gerlach.

Making a solid splash with this debut, Concrete Lullaby boasts a brief, diverse, delectable platter of three strong songs, spotlighting exemplary writing/arranging from Nick Gerlach and thorough performances from Neal Evans and Tommy Shugart. Let’s hope this is merely just the first offering in a series of recordings from this terrific trio and it’s cult of personalities.

words: B.Getz