Radioactive was recorded in Salt Lake City in 2009, while bandleader/composer/trumpeter Dave Chisholm was working on the Master of Music degree at the University of Utah. Recording a debut album as leader with a 17-piece big band might be considered a tad hubristic, even for a Masters program"start small" might be the received wisdombut why not, if the chops are there to back it up? Chisholm's chops are there, instrumentally and compositionally; and so too are those of his young band mates.
This is not a big band that bursts out, all horns blazing, from the speakers. It's a more subtle ensemble than that, thanks to Chisholm's writing and arranging. When the volume and intensity build up they do so gradually, creating and then releasing the musical tension with control. "Radioactive" displays this buildup and release with particular clarity: superb playing from the horn section leads into solos from tenor saxophonist David Halliday, and then Chisholm, which each reflect the tensions of the tune as a whole. "Behind The Mask" takes the opposite route, starting relatively hard and fast before calming down: the drama in the tune seems to beg for a screenplay.
Chisholm's ambition can't be faulted, and it is matched by that of his musicians, all of whom seem determined to reach out as far as they can: the trumpet section, including Chisholm, reaching for the sky on "Radioactive"; Derek Howa's angular piano solo on "Montana"; brother Joe Chisholm's trombone work on the same tune; or the drums and bass of Steve Lyman and Denson Angulo, pretty much anywhere on the record.
Chisholm cites Maria Schneider and Darcy James Argue as inspirational bandleaders. Schneider is probably the closest reference point for the music on Radioactive. But life in Utah might also take some credit, for there is a spaciousness about Chisholm's work, an almost laidback approach, that might not have arisen were he to have spent his formative years in Manhattan or Los Angeles. Following the recording of Radioactive Chisholm moved to Rochester, New York, to begin doctoral studies. Where this move might take him musically remains to be seen, but the undoubted promise of Radioactive makes for some fascinating possibilities.
Radioactive; Behind The Mask; The Jiggler; Montana; In The Belly Of The Sun.
Dave Chisholm: trumpet, flugelhorn; Andrew Kuhnhausen: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet; Adam Leishman: bass clarinet, flute; Marco Blackmore: baritone saxophone; Lance Major: alto saxophone, clarinet; David Halliday: tenor saxophone, flute; Clint Roberts: flute; Reed Lecheminant: trumpet, flugelhorn; Ryan Hunter: trumpet, flugelhorn; Joe Chisholm: trombone; Ryan Shepherd: trombone; Donn Schaefer: trombone, bass trombone; Derek Howa: piano; David Salmon: guitar; Steve Lyman: drums; Denson Angulo: double bass.