Chad McCullough: The Charm Of Impossibilities

Chicago trumpeter mixes hard-bop and rock and reminds of mid-60s Miles Davis in tunes inspired by Olivier Messiaen


What connects Chicago-based trumpeter and composer Chad McCullough with a German prisoner of war camp from World War Two? The answer – the remarkable composition Quartet For The End Of Time by Olivier Messiaen.

Writing under the most unimaginable of circumstances, Messiaen crafted a work deeply rooted in his Christian faith and fashioned it around the instruments available to him in the prisoner of war camp in which he was incarcerated early in that war. The unconventional tonal blend of instruments – clarinet, violin, cello and piano – and the complex structure of the piece, clearly have all influenced McCullough’s approach to The Charm Of Impossibilities.

While this is largely hard-bop type jazz, often redolent in McCullough’s playing of mid-60s Miles Davis, it’s important to note that this is no jazz tribute to Messiaen’s deeply emotional work. Rather the application of Messiaen’s compositional techniques bring complexity and accessibility to the music as it develops and unfolds.

Angular, layered, and at times blurring the edges between soloist and accompanist, this very much echoes the approach taken by Messiaen in his work. Rilke described music as “language where language ends”, recognising the art form’s unique ability to move the listener and to summon times past and to offer glimpses back to previous generations. It is that connection between past and present that infuses McCullough’s music to haunting effect.

Retroactive Resonance; Bee In The Flower (trois); Former Times Float By; Cardamom; Reverdy: Tiger Lotus; Yet Distant Stairs; Remain Sovereign; Prayer; Spinning Wheels; Bee In The Flower (quatour) (55.35)
McCullough (t); Jon Irabagon (ts, ss); Larry Kohut (b, elb); Jon Deitemyer (d, pc). Chicago, 25-26 August 2022.
Calligram Records 0002