Chad McCullough: Forward

Paul Rauch BY

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Chad McCullough: Forward
Trumpeter Chad McCullough has an identifiable sound—his striking, bold tonality, and his penchant for stark contrasts compositionally. His previous four releases on Origin Records, featured artists encountered during his tenure in the Pacific Northwest. His association with drummer and Origin founder, John Bishop, resulted in the formation of his quartet with Belgian pianist Bram Weijters. In two releases, Urban Nightingale (Origin, 2011), and Imaginary Sketches (Origin, 2011) he established a cerebral, pastoral sound of intriguing melodies presented in storyline fashion. That personal sound seems to have followed him on his relocation to Chicago, as he looks ahead with a cadre of Windy City heavyweights for his latest offering, Forward (Outside In Music, 2020).

McCullough is joined by pianist Rob Clearfield, bassist Matt Ulery, and drummer Jon Deitemyer for a solid session featuring six sparkling original compositions. Ryan Cohan contributes arrangements, programming and keyboards on three of the tracks.

The opener, "November Lake," typifies McCullough's trademark compositional style, adding his lush, broad melodicism on trumpet to stand side by side with Clearfield's cascading runs, and Dietemeyer's distinct and supportive stylings on drums and cymbals. Ulery's lyrical, unconventional phrasing, and precision work throughout, serves as the backbone of this piece, as well as the remaining five. Whether soloing or supporting, his efforts on this collection of tunes cannot be underestimated.

"Oak Park," "Grace at the Gavel or Grace at the Gallows," and "Water Tower Sunset" are, again, very much in the framework of McCullough's previous work, but augmented beautifully by Cohan's expert string and keyboard arrangements. Reminiscent of his work on Thomas Marriott's Romance Language (Origin, 2018), behind and through the music, Cohan creates an atmospheric vibe which compliments the salient melodic improvisation of McCullough, and supports the whole with buoyant, colorful harmonic landscapes.

The vibe of Forward feels more like Europe than Chicago, leading to the conclusion that McCullough's pedigree is an amalgam of the places that inspire him, especially those he has called home. While his move from the more laid back environs of the Pacific Northwest, to the faster-paced reality of life in and around Chicago certainly constitutes major change, the music presented here is of a much more personal nature that eminates from the journey within. There are subtle dynamic highs and lows, complimented by fine playing. The band seems to be on the verge of more spirited dynamic impulses at times, but always seems to fall back into the thematic groove of the record, and for that matter, of McCullough's recorded sound to date. That being said, it is a sound listen, and well worth the effort.

Track Listing

November Lake; Oak Park; Gentle; Grace At The Gavel Or Grace At The Gallows; Focal Point; Water Tower Sunset.


Chad McCullough: trumpet; Rob Clearfield: piano; Matt Ulery: bass, acoustic; Jon Deitemyer: drums; Ryan Cohen: electronics.

Album information

Title: Forward | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Outside in Music

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