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Chad McCullough: Playing to the Gig

By Published: June 23, 2009
AAJ: Your playing is very lyrical on "Bock's Car." Much like the rhythm section, you seem to adapt your style to the diversity of your compositions. Is this a result of your experiences as a free-lance musician who is thrown into a multitude of playing situations?

Chad McCullough / Seattle Women's Jazz OrchestraCM: Like anyone else who's trying to make a living playing music, I do a variety of things. I do a lot of terrible gigs, things you might not want other people to know about. But I think you draw from all of your experiences. Just like playing a salsa gig one night and a free, improvised gig the next, you have to play to the gig.

As for the record, each one of these tunes has its own character so in a way it's like playing to the gig on each tune. All the guys on the record are like that. Bradfield sounds like a totally different tenor player on "Bock's Car" than on a fast tune like "Anatomy of Conscience." Being around great musicians who can change and adapt has been a big influence on me.

AAJ: Besides the musicians on your record, who else influenced you growing up in Seattle?

CM: When I started to really get into playing music, trumpet players like Thomas Marriott and Jay Thomas were around playing all the time. I got to hear a lot of incredible music. When I was in high school, I used to sneak out of my house to go hear Tom Marriott play downtown. It was a cool time. As up and down as the scene has been in Seattle, the people who have been the real icons here have been so helpful; a whole bunch of really nice people.

AAJ: You recently spent three weeks at the Banff Center in Alberta, Canada, studying with trumpeter Dave Douglas

Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas

CM: I don't know how to say this without sounding weird but when you look in the magic mirror and ask "Who's the best of them all?," it's Dave Douglas for me. The whole experience up there was very cool. The faculty was Joshua Redman
Joshua Redman
Joshua Redman
, Tony Malaby
Tony Malaby
Tony Malaby

sax, tenor
, Jerry Granelli
Jerry Granelli
Jerry Granelli
and Don Byron
Don Byron
Don Byron
. On top of that there were 60 musicians from all over the world. We were pulling 20-hour days, playing, writing and arranging. They have a club on the campus with four bands playing every night. There's also a recording studio so you have people putting projects together left and right. It was also eye-opening to hear people from all over the world; guys from Slovakia who could just crush everyone on the piano. It was a life changing experience.

AAJ: Any new music set to be recorded?

CM: I'll be going into the studio soon to record a suite I composed while I was up at Banff. I'm using a clarinetist from Ireland and a pianist from Portland who were both up there with me. I also play in a pretty cool band called the Andrew Oliver Kora Band. It's an interesting band that incorporates some traditional West African sounds. We'll be recording some new material soon.

Geof Bradfield will be coming to town to do a CD release for Dark Wood, Dark Water, so I'm tempted to do something else with that same group, at least a live recording. I want to be involved with lots of projects. One of the things I got from Dave Douglas at Banff was to enjoy a record when it's completed. Sit down and have a beer that night and feel good about it, then wake up the next morning and figure out what you're going to do next.

Chad McCulloughAAJ: You're involved with the daily operations at Origin Records. What's a typical day like working with the label?

CM: All sorts of things. I might spend the day mailing out CDs, working on graphics for the Website, or working on finding potential new artists. There are three of us, John Bishop, Matt Jorgensen and myself, so we all do what we can to keep the boat moving in the right direction. We also produce the Ballard Jazz Festival every year during the last week of April so when that comes around it takes up all of our time.

A lot of the time, I just do what I'm told and learn from John and Matt. They're so great at what they do and really help me figure things out. It was supposed to be a temporary thing at first. They just asked me to help out with some busy work, but now it's been almost three years and I love it. We're fortunate to have a steady stream of projects that come in, so we can pick and choose the best ones. We have a strong enough artist roster with guys who are constantly trying to make more music. Hopefully, we do things that make people happy.

Selected discography

Chad McCullough, Dark Wood, Dark Water (Origin Records, 2009)
Seattle Women's Jazz Orchestra, Meeting of the Waters (OA2 Records, 2007)

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Origin Records

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