In the spring of 2012, Seattle trumpeter Chad McCullough was in the process of putting together a new album with a new tour date for his new Chicago band of sidemen turned frontmen, the Spin Quartet. Now that some time has passed, he and his bandmates — Geof Bradfield (sax), Clark Sommers (bass), Kobie Watkins (drums) — are ready for the show to go on.
The Spin Quartet’s new album’s set to drop this fall, with a tour to go along with it. The band’s also ready to take the stage at Chicago’s Constellation, Wednesday, 9:30 p.m., for some adult jazz and maybe an album preview.
“It’ll be the band’s first time playing in Chicago, where I moved to, nearly a year ago,” McCullough explained. “It’s a wonderful and complex music scene, and I’m very proud to be a part of it. … We’ll be playing a lot of music that will be released on the group’s debut album this fall.”
McCullough’s time as a sideman in the tough Emerald City music scene proved fruitful. Equally at home in the classical and jazz realms, McCullough stood out in the award-winning, West African-inspired Kora Band, the endlessly hip jazz fusion big band Zubatto Syndicate, and the international, chart-topping sensation Tunnel Six. As a composer, McCullough’s equally accomplished, having written jazz/classical film scores, even musical spots for NPR, taught clinics all over the country, and done outreach for many aspiring high school students — all while earning himself national notice in All About Jazz when John Barron called him “one of Seattle’s young musical gems.”
An Origin recording artist, McCullough’s restless spirit led him to some imaginative collaborations with understated, underrated sidemen, especially those overseas. The collaborations resulted in critical mass. Dan McClenaghan, also of All About Jazz, wrote on October 23, 2012, that McCullough’s second album with Belgian Antwerp pianist Bram Weijters was nothing short of breakout. McClenaghan reviewed “Urban Nightingale” as if it was the next coming in jazz. Maybe it was. With Weijters taking over the bulk of the conceptualization, McCullough executed like a legend. “He is a rare instrumentalist who makes each note sound as if it were imbued with a deeper meaning,” McClenaghan wrote. “Certainly a player with great chops, his approach — especially on his two teamings with Weijters — is one that is a measured and deliberate, often introspective, sometimes gorgeously melancholic, and one that employs a continuity of mood and atmosphere that the best recordings have.”
The Spin Quartet developed naturally following a fun jazz festival jam. McCullough, who moved to Chicago not long after forming his new band about three years ago, saw loads of potential in mixing up his famous friends with modern jazz, unscripted progression, and dangerous possibilities erupting at every turn. These sidemen are used to living in the shadows of the spotlight, backing some powerful names (Kurt Elling, Larry Koonse, Bobby Broom, Sonny Rollins, Brian Blade, Ernie Watts, Ramsey Lewis, Tony DoRosario, John Moulder).
On their own, they’ve earned the right to the spotlight. Bradfield’s commissioned work, “Melba!” made it onto an NPR JazzSet in 2013 and received positive reviews from Downbeat Magazine. Sommers’ work with jazz vocalist Kurt Elling gained him good Grammy standing two times over. Watkins, who recently moved to North Carolina, is known as a master collaborator constantly evolving the form with progressive thinkers. His new Origin record “Involved” set the bar high for other drummers.
For the Constellation show, McCullough is happy to add drummer Jon Deitemyer to the band. Deitemyer is fast accumulating credentials as a sideman on the rise. His many performance and recording collaborations, as well as his overseas tours and educator status at Loyola University Chicago and the Chicago Academy for the Arts, make him the perfect in-demand guy. “Jon is an beautiful musician who I’ve been a fan of for years, and I’m lucky to have as a part of this,” McCullough enthused.
The Spin Quartet is ready to step forward with music that goes somewhere. It’s been a long time coming for bandleader McCullough, but well worth the effort. “Since the group played at the Ballard Jazz Festival in Seattle, I’ve been on a three-week European tour with pianist Bram Weijters, and then get to return to Chicago for this show... Nothing like hitting the ground running! I’m really feeling fortunate at this point in my life for all of the opportunities and experiences. I’m really a strong believer in surrounding yourself with people who inspire you, both personally and artistically. The Spin Quartet — and the move to Chicago as a whole — has really encapsulated both!”