There's not a lot to know about The Spin Quartet, or their album, In Circles.
There's no liner notes, and to tell the truth, I don't know much about leader and trumpeter Chad McCullough. I know that Clark Sommers has appeared on a few of my favorite local discs from the last few years. I know that Kobie Watkins is a beast behind the drums, and everything I've ever heard from saxophonist Geof Bradfield has been excellent. So, we can be well assured that this is a talented cast of fellas. But can they play well together?
In short: yep. It helps that the writing is pretty spot on. These are some cool tunes. The interplay here between Bradfield and McCullough is interesting. The rhythm section drives hard. And that's what makes In Circles
compelling. A group without and instrument to provide chords and harmony needs a very particular type of bassist and drummer - players who can make every chord change audible, who listen and react in such a way that a loose format like this never sounds
loose. Sommers is brilliant in this capacity, as he was on his own disc, (BA)sh,
which also forgoes a piano player. Watkins is a fantastic drummer as well, reacting when necessary and keeping up some very happening, rock solid grooves the rest of the time. Once you've got a rhythm section like that in place, it's much easier to make and appealing record, which In Circles
most certainly is. In Circles
starts off with a bang, courtesy of a groovin and supple bass line from Clark Sommers. Kobie jumps in, and then something magical happened, at least as far as I'm concerned - I was reminded not of Ornette Coleman, who is the easy parallel, but rather, of the Joe Lovano & Tom Harrell front line on Lovano's Quartet's
album. (A quick detour: if you've not heard that double disc set, pick it up. The disc with Lovano and Harrell is without a doubt one of the more exiting discs I've heard in the last 20 years.) The interplay is really cool, but what makes it even better is how McCullough and Bradfield stoke the fire to make each bar more interesting than the last.
Add in a fake ending, and "Little Marionette" is a great way to get an album started. My favorite track happens a few songs later. "You Will Look For Yours On Earth" (maybe a Bob Marley nod?) is just flat out electric. It's got a groove that just doesn't quit, that's actually fairly "heavy" for a jazz tune, and sports great solos. "Baiao Atemporal" sounds like it could have come out of a lost Chris Potter session. When these guys decide to swing, like on "Haberdasher," they make it sound great. And even though this is Chad McCullough's session, at every other turn, I find myself drawn to Clark Sommer's bass playing throughout In Circles.
Really, I can't imagine this music being even half as successful without his anchoring of these tunes. In Circles
is the kind of album that I love to hear - a one of a kind disc that is adventurous and grooving. Chad McCullough's got a winning formula here with this band, and I really hope they get out and play, get even woolier with the interplay and put out another disc and soon. I'd love to see where else this band could go, because In Circles
is a pretty fantastic jumping off point. Recommended.