Chad McCullough – Forward – Outside In Music – OIM 2022- 40:46 – ****
It’s been over a decade since trumpeter Chad McCullough has recorded as a leader, and his new CD is a welcome back occasion. He has made eight albums as a co-leader of several groups (The Spin Quartet, as well as recordings with Belgian pianist, Bram Weitjers), but after relocating from the Northwest to the vibrant jazz scene in Chicago, the time seemed right to explore his own vision again, this time backed with musicians from the Windy City.
His new CD, titled, Forward, highlights his gorgeous trumpet and flugelhorn tone. He is backed by Rob Clearfield on piano; Matt Ulery on bass; and Jon Deitemeyer on drums. On four tracks, co-producer, Ryan Cohan contributes keyboards, and intoxicating programming effects that deeply broaden the soundscape, and help bring a warmth to Chad’s original compositions. There is a “dreaminess” that both intrigues and comforts the listener on these tracks.
McCullough’s mid-range strengths are solid, and his trumpet and flugelhorn playing has a crystal clear articulation that is found on classical/ Americana jazz motifs that are so popular today. It is both heartwarming, and needed during these stressful pandemic times. Each of the six tracks can both soothe and create calmness and serenity, yet still avoid the cloying saccharine sameness that smooth jazz gave during its heyday. There is strong interaction between band members, and each has the opportunity to step out and improvise.
“November Lake” opens with a clarion horn call before expanding to Matt Ulery on bass responding, and pianist Rob Clearfield soloing in a similar vein. “Oak Park” was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. It’s a tender tune with Jon’s cymbal work, and Ryan’s programming contributing to the mood. Chad’s emotive playing bring a deep emotional content.
“Gentle” is truly that, and a great feature for Chad to shine with his mastery on the horn. I also enjoyed Clearfield’s closing solo. “Grace at the Gavel or Grace at the Gallows (certainly an intriguing title) opens with a probing melody, before Cohan’s keyboards add an ethereal influence. Ulery’s bass solo brought to mind Charlie Haden, with its gentle, yet muscular effect. Chad increases the intensity prodded by Ryan’s programmed keys.
“Focal Point” has the drums leading the way, while McCullough’s solo choruses have an introspective strength and clarity found throughout this release. More ambient motif based jazz is found on the closer, “Winter Tower Sunset.”
This CD, released this month, will appeal to a wide spectrum of jazz fans, especially those that appreciate the beauty of the warm, round tone and timbre, that Chad McCullough brings on this winning new release. Let’s hope that the wait for his new releases as a leader is a short one.
Chad McCullough – trumpet and flugelhorn
Rob Clearfield – piano
Matt Ulery – bass
Jon Deitemeyer – drums; Ryan Cohan – keyboards and programming on #2, 4, 6
Grace at the Gavel or Grace at the Gallows
Water Tower Sunset
For More Information, visit Chad McCullough on Bandcamp