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Chad McCullough: Dark Wood, Dark Water (2009)

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Chad McCullough: Dark Wood, Dark Water How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Seattle-based trumpeter Chad McCullough has assembled a North-West all-star line-up for his debut release, Dark Wood, Dark Water, mixing it up with Origin Records regulars on an inspired, modern-leaning post-bop outing.

On "Three Pillar," a silky three-horn harmony blows in like a brisk wind in the embrace of the top-tier rhythm team of bassist Jeff Johnson
Jeff Johnson
Jeff Johnson
b.1954
bass
, pianist Bill Anschell and drummer John Bishop
John Bishop
John Bishop
b.1959
drums
. McCullough and his frontline-mates—saxophonists Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor
b.1961
composer/conductor
and Chicagoan Geof Bradfield
Geof Bradfield
Geof Bradfield
b.1970
saxophone
—blend their sounds in Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
fashion until the leader takes flight on an inspired solo. McCullough's tone is clean and cool, with a gathering intensity, before he fades down and hands off to the soprano sax with a tart tone enmeshed in the cohesive rhythm. Johnson emerges on one of his characteristic Zen bass solos, and pianist Anschell sparkles.

McCullough and company take on Lennon/McCartney's "Blackbird." One of two non-McCullough-penned tunes on the disc, the familiar melody has seen its share of splendid jazz interpretations—on drummer Tony Williams
Tony Williams
Tony Williams
1945 - 1997
drums
' Neptune (Blue Note records, 1992) featuring trumpeter Wallace Roney
Wallace Roney
Wallace Roney
b.1960
trumpet
, and, more recently, by cellist Henning Sievert on Blackbird (Pirouet records, 2009), to name just two. McCullough's version wanders further from the melody than most, via labyrinthine soprano lines and the leader's own long and winding road story, told with his clean articulation floating over the gently propulsive rhythm.

McCullough's "Nightmare's Dance" cooks over a high, controlled flame before some of Taylor's tight sax lines weave a tight web through the ensemble interplay. "Lock Down," inspired by an actual lockdown of a school due to a gun on campus, treads dark ground in a sad and reflective mood.

Anschell's "Dreamscape" has a tender and pensive feeling, featuring both sopranos blowing sweetly, with McCullough exhibiting a deep, rich flugelhorn tone, followed by spare, inward, piano turn by Anschell.

.Dark wood, Dark Water, with its organic interplay and beautiful, surprise-filled soloing, is a marvelous debut by an inspired newcomer, on a record label that—with lots of debut discs to its credit—is doing more than its fair share to keep the art form vibrant.


Track Listing: Three Pillars; Blackbird; Nightmare's Dance; Lock Down; Home; Bock's Car; Anatomy of Conscience; Dreamscape; The Oracle.

Personnel: Chad McCullough: trumpet, flugelhorn; Mark Taylor: alto and soprano saxophones; Geof Bradfield: tenor and soprano saxophones; Bill Anschell: piano; Jeff Johnson: bass; John Bishop: drums.

Record Label: Origin Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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