Dark Wood, Dark Water
is the first release for Seattle-based trumpet/composer Chad McCulough. The liner notes contain brief descriptionsw of all the compositions, seven of which are penned by McCullough. His sound is sweet and mellow, and he performs his flowing improvisations in a neat linear fashion making his more complex ideas sound easy and simple. Most of the selections for this talented sextet have a laid-back feel that has touches of a hard-bop style, but always with a pleasant aura. This is particularly apparent on the opening track, "Three Pillars." In the creatively arranged "Blackbird," McCullough solos with clean, sparse phrases that he slowly develops into a hard swinging groove. In "Lock Down," McCullough provides a somewhat meditative, rather thin texture that is nicely complemented by the smooth connected lines of his flugelhorn. "Bock's Car" is perhaps the most ambitious tune on the CD. Here McCullough solos with a light, almost spooky style, generating peaks and valleys that give the tune a free-jazz feel. The quickest tracks on the CD are "Nightmare's Dance" and "Anatomy of Conscience," both bright and boppish, which end far too suddenly. The recording closes with "The Oracle," a glently moving tune where McCullough's solo quietly and slowly builds in intensity, but never goes too far. There are several dexterous and inspirational solos by saxophonists Geof Bradfield and Mark Taylor. McCullough's fresh ideas and creative compositional skills give him a solid future as a contributor to the mainstream jazz world.