4 1/2 STARS
Trumpeter Chad McCullough debuted as a leader in 2009 with the superb Dark Wood, Dark, Water (Origin Records). He's stayed busy ever since, recording with The Kora Band - inspired by the sounds of Africa - Tunnel Six, and the two horn, chordless The Spin Quartet, along with two previous modern jazz sets on Origin Records on which he teamed as a co-leader with Belgian pianist Bram Weijters, Imaginary Sketches (2011) and Urban Nightingale (2012). At hand now is the pair's third offering, Abstract Quantities.
This is a Belgian/American quartet. McCullough and drummer John Bishop represent the United States, with bassist Piet Verbist and pianist/co-leader Bram Weijters hailing from Belgium. Weijters is a commanding presence on the piano - passionate and percussive on the set's opener, "Billions." McCullough's trumpet displays the purest of tones on this propulsive piece, with Verbist and Bishop crafting an unsettled and turbulent rhythm. Weijters' solo reveals a knack for intriguing story telling, a talent he shares with McCullough.
Eight out of eleven tunes on Abstract Qualities come from Weijters' pen. Three are written by McCullough, including the wistful and reflective "Little Song (for Mirthe)." It's a tune of immensely graceful quartet interplay and a measured majesty. The group has a way of sounding larger than a foursome, perhaps from the bright colors and the intricate and expansive tapestry that Bishop lays down on this gorgeous song.
The jazz quartet featuring a trumpet and a rhythm section is historically represented most potently by pianist Herbie Hancock's masterful Empyrean Isles (Blue Note Records, 1965), featuring trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, and Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko's ECM Records recordings with the Marcin Wasilewski Trio, Suspended Night (2004) Lotano (2006). With three recordings under their belts, and the music evolving in its beauty, mystery and originality, the Chad McCullough/Bram Weijters group is pushing into that classic territory.