Chad McCullough / Michal Vanoucek - The Sky Cries

Album review. Trumpeter Chad McCullough teams up with Slovakian pianist Michal Vanoucek in a breakthrough album of innovative jazz


Recorded at Robert Lang Studios, Seattle WA on 23rd October 2009

Release date: October 19th 2010

Availability: CD, MP3 Download

 Chad McCullough / Michal Vanoucek – The Sky Cries cover

As in last year's excellent 'Dark Wood, Dark Water', Chad McCullough teams up with saxophonist Mark Taylor – also featured on Randy Halberstadt's recent 'Flash Point' - and two other mainstays of the North West jazz scene, Dave Captein (bass) and Matt Jorgensen (drums). The added dimension on 'The Sky Cries' is Slovakian pianist Michal Vanoucek.

It is probably too easy to say that Michal Vanoucek brings a classical European sensibility (the Conservatory, Bratislava, the Royal Conservatory, The Hague, Holland) to Chad McCullough's equally well-honed North Western take on jazz (University of Washington, Lionel Hampton Scholar at University of Idaho) though that is certainly in evidence here. There is a musical understanding between the two that is special.

This can be seen particularly clearly in two of the compositions. Michal Vanoucek's 'Blue in Breed', a resonant ballad, provides space and the opportunity for some of Chad McCullough's finest soloing to date – and room for an arresting bass solo from Dave Captein – with the composer's piano solo supplying only a short coda. Chad McCullough's 'Krasna' sets up an equally compelling theme carried on trumpet that allows Michal Vanoucek's piano playing to weave around it expressively. It's the understanding of the making of musical opportunities for each other that is so impressive.

Chad McCullough photo
Chad McCullough, photo by Steve Korn

The composing duties on the ten tracks are equally shared; five Chad McCullough originals, five Michal Vanoucek originals.

In the remaining Chad McCullough compositions, the opening 'Where The Sky Cries' is upbeat with fine soloing from Mark Taylor. 'Urban Grassland' builds on a strong theme on harmonized horns that leads into lucid solos on alto sax from Mark Taylor and trumpet from the composer. 'Time Lapse' has an interesting plucked bass and piano backing underpinning expressive horn work. Chad McCullough's final contribution, 'Soliloquy for D.G.' starts quietly on piano before opening out into fiery improvisation.

In the remaining Michal Vanoucek compositions, 'Tryskac Part 1' and 'Tryskac Part 2' are edgy conceptions with time signature variations, providing a basis for an almost experimental jazz at times just this side of in. 'Katia' offers a beautiful near classical theme, taken up in fine style on trumpet and then piano, the nearest of all the tracks to an accompanied duet. 'Bosa' ends the album on a note similar to that of the opening track, bringing the music back full circle, offering a sense of completion.

Look out for Chad McCullough's new trio project with Michal Vanoucek and Jose Martinez with the cd release and tour 'Imaginary Sketches' expected in early 2011.

Highly recommended. One of the best jazz albums released this year.

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