Take a classically inclined, modern jazz technician in Seattle and put him together with some visiting superstar guest artists - his Chicago heroes. Makes for a can't-miss series of Western Washington concerts this month, especially if the heroes in question are Kobie Watkins, Clark Sommers, and Geof Bradfield, the best in the business.
Drummer Watkins can double-down with finesse and groove. He'd better. He's Sonny Rollins' main guy. The Swing Master of Chicago - qualified in jazz, Latin, and gospel - has also backed Arturo Sandoval, Curtis Fuller, George Coleman, Ira Sullivan, and Sonny Fortune.
Kurt Elling's bassist, Sommers, learned early on to embrace all styles of music into his ever-expanding repertoire. But real jazz grabbed at his soul when he learned at the feet of the masters, the late saxophonist Lin Halliday, the late pianist Jodie Christian, and Ron Perrillo, another inspirational piano player.
Moving easily amongst classical music, jazz, and African folk (aka, jazz world music), tenor saxophonist Geof Bradfield made history with his 2010 release, "African Flowers." Inspired by a 2008 trip throughout parts of Africa, Bradfield distinguished himself as an original composer able to translate imagery and feeling into deeply evocative, haunting soundscapes. He is also the recipient of many awards and Chamber Music America commissions for modern jazz compositions. His next, extended, 2011 New Jazz Works commission focuses on the late trombonist/arranger Melba Liston.
Trumpeter/composer Chad McCullough (The Kora Band, Zubatto Syndicate) has wanted to bring these particular musical friends together to jam for a while. "It's finally lined up that everyone was free and able at the same time... It's rare that these guys are all in the same town at the same time," he said. "I've played with all of these guys in different contexts, and the three of them are all friends from Chicago. Geof Bradfield was on my first record, and Clark and Kobie are two of my heroes... All of them are absolutely at the top of their field, and I'm so honored to get to make music with them."
McCullough's tops in his field and a hero too, for a lot of up-and-coming Northwest musicians. Not only was he anointed "one of Seattle's young musical gems" by All About Jazz's John Barron, but the critically acclaimed recording artist has put together jazz/classical film scores, teaches high school/college clinics all over the country, does jazz outreach, tours extensively in Europe, and continues to reinvent the music he plays and writes.
The hard-hitting music of Chad McCullough's newly formed Spin Quartet promises to keep audiences paying attention. Expect to hear some new stuff just for the band. "I'm in the process of writing music that will showcase these guys, and we'll be playing a lot of pretty, in-your-face modern jazz music," McCullough explained. "The great thing is that anything I write, these guys will make sound good!"