The Charm of Impossibilities is a cerebral album, but it also swings, rocks, moves, dances, and thinks through each song, intellectual and reflective jazz.

Calligram 0002

Chad McCullough (trumpet); Larry Kohut (bass); John Deitemeyer (drums, percussion); Jon Jrabagon (tenor and soprano saxophones)

The Charm of Impossibilities is the second release from the new music label, Calligram. Chad McCullough and saxophonist Geof Bradfield founded Calligram to spotlight musicians in Chicago’s vibrant jazz community.

Chad McCullough’s website states, “Trumpet player and composer Chad McCullough’s fascination with the unique musical mind of Olivier Messiaen was sparked 20 years ago when he first heard the composer’s seminal work, Quator pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of time), scored in 1940 by Messiaen for a chamber ensemble comprised of his fellow prisoners in a German camp.’ “It’s so complex in structure, yet still accessible to the casual listener and completely overwhelming emotionally,”’ comments McCullough.

He has long been interested in utilizing Messiaen’s compositional process as laid out in the composer’s Techniques of My Musical Language but wanted to’“ filter them through a setting where the result would yield music that would be conducive to improvisation.”’ No small task, but on The Charm of Impossibilities McCullough and company deliver on that promise with clarity and conviction. “

McCullough composed all the songs on the album.

Retroactive Resonance starts with a dialogue between trumpet and saxophone set against a thrumming rhythm that propels the listener into the midst of the instruments’ conversation. McCullough’s instantly engaging trumpet demands the listeners’ attention.

Deitemeyer’s drums roll and crash with subdued energy, and his cymbal crashes add commentary to the musical proceedings. Towards the halfway point, the dialog drifts farther apart while the rhythm section holds the song together.

This is singing, screaming modern jazz. Trumpet and saxophone approach dissonance, but as the title suggests, they find their resonance repeatedly.

In Bee In The Flower (Trois), Larry Kohut’s bass anchors McCullough’s soulful trumpet at the song’s start. The bass sounds as it plays arpeggiated chords like a guitar, adding harmonic color to the root of the song so that McCullough’s trumpet can soar above it.

In the song’s center, drums emerge as embellishments for the bass that carries the theme. There is well-used space on the music, which propels it on its slow trip through its melodious flower garden.

The playful intro to Former Times Float By subtly moves into the song’s body, adding a serious edge to its playfulness. McCullough’s trumpet is especially sad.

The tone of Kohut’s electric bass gives his dancing rhythm more bite. The bass becomes funky and transforms into the lead instrument as the drums crescendo, and the horns accentuate its snaky and commanding rhythm. What a blowout for the rhythm section!

Cardamom sounds like a combination of Retroactive Resonance and Former Times Float By.

Reverdy begins abruptly and demands the listener’s attention. Bass and trumpet move and slink over the nimble drums and lay their claim to the trail the band started in this exploration. Kohl’s bass is once again a marvel of rhythm and harmony. Deitiemyer’s drums sound simultaneously chaotic and orderly.

Tiger Lotus comprises multiple sections that reflect the different tunes on the album, a microcosm of the macrocosm. Melodic bass playing leads to a melancholy and majestic melody rhythm section driving while the horns soar over them.

Jrabagon’s saxophone lets forth with ripples of rivers of notes as the trumpet remains stately beneath it. The song pauses for a drum solo, and the other instruments return with a freneticism that matches horns and bass. It sends with the same trajectory with which it started.

Yet Distant Stairs is a showcase for the rhythm section, with the trumpet adding lovely decoration to the drums and bass’s borderline funky groove. In Prayer, McCullough’s trumpet on this song is just beautiful.

Remain Sovereign Is melancholy and playful simultaneously and another showcase for the musicians in the band and rhythm section that moves between the song’s seemingly at-odds emotions.

Spinning Wheels is onomatopoeic, and the instruments take off for the finish line at speed, once again stretching their harmonic relationship. Like Retroactive Resonance, this song approaches the

edge of dissonance—the two horns in the band dance over each other, each demanding equal attention.

Be in the Flower (Quator) echoes Bee In The Flower (Trois) ‘s instrumental layering, a reflective and thoughtful closing to the album.

The Charm of Impossibilities is a cerebral album, but it also swings, rocks, moves, dances, and thinks through each song, intellectual and reflective jazz. Each of the songs on the album reflects each other. Like movements in an orchestral work, songs work individually but, taken together, tell a more extensive and more comprehensive story.

Part of the song’s uniformity comes from using Messiaen-inspired combinations of harmony and time that move the pieces from their inner logic without sacrificing the emotion inherent in all the best music.