Calligram Records 0005
Release Date: November 3, 2023
One is the debut recording of the trans-continental collective Atlantic Road Trip. Chicago-based trumpeter Chad McCullough first met Slovakian vibraphonist Miro Herak in 2009 at the Banff Center for the Arts, a catalyst for creativity under the direction of trumpeter Dave Douglas. The two became great friends and frequent collaborators, touring throughout Belgium and Holland with numerous projects. Shortly before the pandemic they reached out to Scottish alto saxophonist Paul Towndrow, another longtime associate of Herak’s who is also heard here on traditional whistles and flute. Scottish drummer Alyn Cosker and Irish bassist Conor Murray complete the international ensemble.
“We stayed in close contact throughout the pandemic and even remotely recorded a set for the 2021 Glasgow Jazz Festival,” remembers McCullough. The following year, Atlantic Road Trip toured the UK, Netherlands, and Belgium. Returning to Scotland in 2023, they managed to find the time in their busy touring schedule to record One.
Collaboration is at the heart of One. “Musical projects and endeavours which are truly and successfully collaborative are hard to come by,” muses Towndrow. “You need to be on the same page as your co-conspirators, and if not, acceptance and compromise should feel as natural a part of the creative process as anything else. With Atlantic Road Trip, I feel that we’ve found that balance.” Herak concurs, adding that “I knew Chad and Paul quite well not only musically but also personally… I had no doubt this would be a very inspiring endeavor and that proved true beyond my expectations.”
The music on One is rich and varied, distilling Scottish and Slovakian folks traditions and blending them with a modern jazz aesthetic. “In Scotland there is an evolving musical tradition built not only around its indigenous music, but also around those who seek to collaborate across styles, genres, and continents,” comments Towndrow. His poetic "Pale Ale (Pale Ale/Dr. Jones Never Saw It Coming)” epitomizes this approach, reveling in its Gaelic roots in the opening reel with plaintive whistle and earthy bodhrán before seamlessly shifting into post-Coltrane improvisation. “White Cart Water” uses similar elements to completely different effect, accentuating the translucent beauty of whistle, vibraphone and trumpet over arco bass and delicate cymbal work.
Delving into his Slovakian heritage, Herak offers new interpretations of the traditional folks songs “Hore Haj, Dolu Haj” and “Kopala Studienku, Pozerala do nej.”* The latter is the basis of the Slovak national anthem. Herak’s contemplative introduction recalls the origins of his arrangement, a solo vibraphone performance at Carnegie Hall. “Hore Haj,” says Herak, “is a Slovak traditional song about inequality between the rich upper class and the common man and calls for an action in the fight against it.” The band intertwines Slavic dance rhythms with Scottish flute and contemporary jazz harmony in this upbeat, optimistic anthem for the common man.
With his fiery opener “The Other Fulton Street,” McCullough gives a nod to his adopted Chicago home and the Fulton Street Collective, a frequent outlet for McCullough’s many creative projects. In sharp contrast, his lovely, lyrical ballad “Auburn” draws inspiration from the iconic science fiction writer H. Beam Piper to imagine the end of the world. In Atlantic Road Trip’s hands it ends with neither a bang or a whimper, but rather with quiet dignity and expansive beauty.
Hard on the heels of the release of One, Atlantic Road Trip will launch their first U.S. tour, a three-week long excursion featuring the premier of “Over Mountain, Under Sky,” a newly commissioned work for big band and string orchestra. The musicians look forward to bringing their collaborative efforts to new audiences both in person and through the release of One. “Music comes to life when cultural ideas are shared, explored, and given the opportunity to evolve and find a place in the hearts and minds of the audience as well as the people who create it,” relates Towndrow. “What happens when people are allowed the freedom to move, travel, exchange ideas, adapt and grow? How can we bring our diverse ideas together in a way that cuts to the heart of our shared experience as humans? I hope the music on One will invite the listener to reflect on these questions as we have done in creating it.”
Tracks 1,5,10 composed by Chad McCullough, Chad McCullough Music, ASCAP
Tracks 2,4,6,8 composed by Paul Towndrow, Paul Towndrow Music, PRS
Track 9 composed by Miro Herak, BumaStemra
Tracks 3,7 traditional Slovak folk songs, arranged by Miro Herak
Cathcart composed by Phil Cunningham
Produced by Chad McCullough, Paul Towndrow, and Miro Herak
Recorded by Andrea Gobbi, assisted by Keir Long,
at GloWormRecording, Glasgow, Scotland on June 29, 2023
Mixed and mastered by Brian Schwab, Chicago, Illinois
Additional programming by Chad McCullough (2,5), Paul Towndrow (8)
Cover photo by Thomas Ferrella, www.ferrella.com
Layout, design, and photography by Chad McCullough
For over 20 years, Scottish Saxophonist Paul Towndrow has received high acclaim for his live and recorded work with small groups ranging from duo to sextet, and for his compositional works for big band, full orchestra, and more.
There's something about the composition, this kinda takes that AJE feel and smishes it into
something a whole lot more...darker? Not really, it's got lightness, it's definitely got rhythm and it grooves, deeply, right into your soul. Love this album, think it's my favourite release so far this year. Not for now is an absolute earworm...be warned!
I miss John Taylor…saw him play in so many different configurations but especially with John Surman.
This set is a gem and not to be missed…Kenny Wheeler is just superb!
Also, wishing Matt Parker all the very best with this new label venture…along with ‘Jazz In Britain’ this wonderful period of truly great music is finally getting platforms it deserves. John Cratchley