Chad McCullough: Dark Wood, Dark Water (2009)
McCullough proves a thoughtful improviser with technique to spare. His soloing on the opening "Three Pillars" and "Blackbird" builds from low-keyed rumblings to upper register, drawn-out runs. While many freshman discs result in nothing more than a showcase for an artists blazing chops, McCullough exhibits a refreshingly lyrical approach, especially on the warm-textured waltz "Home" and the brooding "Bock's Car." Trumpet players will appreciate the spirited blowing on the up-tempo swinger "Nightmare's Dance" and the Latin-inspired "Anatomy of Conscience." The latter features a fiery back-and-forth between McCullough and Bradfield.
As a composer, McCullough develops simple themes into enticing musical statements, enhanced by lush harmonic progressions. These characteristics give the disc an invigorating momentum, especially on plaintive pieces such as "Lock Down" and 'The Oracle."
Solo space is spread around equally, allowing Taylor and Bradfield plenty of opportunity to shine. Taylor's sizzling bebop turns on "Nightmare's Dance" stand out as a disc highlight. Anschell, Johnson and Bishop are a provocative rhythm section, able to keep things grounded while firing off explosive improvised rounds.
All in all, Dark Wood, Dark Water is an impressive first round for one of Seattle's young musical gems.
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 saxophone, soprano saxophone; Geof Bradfield: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Bill Anschell: piano; Jeff Johnson: bass; John Bishop: drums.
Record Label: Origin Records
Style: Modern Jazz