The quintet is tight and loose simultaneously and focused on their journey through the music.

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Geof Bradfield (tenor saxophone); Russ Johnson (trumpet); Scott Hesse (guitar); Clark Sommers (bass); Dana Hall (drums)

Recorded live at the Green Mill October 23, 2021 (1-4) and at Pro Musica November 1, 2021, by Ken Christianson. Quaver is the first release from Calligram Records, a new record label founded by Geof Bradfield and trumpeter Chad McCullough to showcase Chicago musicians.

The band recorded half of Quaver live and the other half in the studio. The album’s live recordings sound very much like a jam session. Still, the musicians are in sync enough never to get lost, and the tonal changes in the more extended numbers sound like organic, happy accidents that lend to the sense of the musicians exploring their sonic space together.

The songs are catchy enough as frameworks for the musician’s exploration. The studio-recorded songs follow a similar pattern but sound just a little crisper. That said, the quintet cooks on every piece.

Opener Deep Ellum starts with a rhythmic outline and then jumps into the deep end, and as both trumpet and saxophone take off, the guitar drives an incessant rhythm that helps the saxophone and trumpet to sound even more graceful. As the song proceeds, the musicians

seem to take their time, reveling in the spontaneous joy of their music. The instruments sound like they are delighting in their play. The song quiets as it continues, as guitar and keyboards straddle the borders of rhythm and harmony without losing their sense of play.

The entire band explores the territory of their song, knowing the other quintet members are there with them at every step. The saxophone solo sounds like it’s coming from somewhere else but still seamlessly engages in a dialog with the guitar solo before it.

As the title track, Quaver, develops, Bradfield’s saxophone dance notes between the drum and cymbal beats send cascading rows of notes above the rhythm sections as it drives the song. It morphs into a duet between saxophone and drums before the guitar delivers a haunting, swelling riff to carry the band to the next section, another duet, this time between trumpet and guitar.

Hesse’s guitar almost sounds like a keyboard, deepening the song’s texture and accentuating its border harmonies.

Naõ Faz Mal is a slow and soulful trip excursion into Bossa Nova territory, employing the same tonalities that inform their other recordings. Bradfield’s tenor saxophone and Johnson’s trumpet sing through their solos and weave around each other at their conclusion. The song’s melody is catchy, too!

As the band prepares to move deeper into the melody, Plucky employs a classy, swinging header. Rhythms are sparse and playful, and Clark Sommer’s bass drives the outline of the song as guitars support the bass by playing soft, partial chords under it, which is an excellent reverse approach.

The guitar picks up, and the two play a lovely rhythm duet before the trumpet takes a happy solo as the same rhythmic approach continues. The bass moves into a bouncy, walking line, and the trumpet hands its solo to Bradfield’s ’supple saxophone.

The drums splash and cascade at each solo break, adding to the song’s fun. The song’s start and stop rhythm makes the saxophone and trumpet solos more anticipated. Plucky is such an apt name for this song as that’s what this is: spirited, bouncy, happy jazz.

5 in 3 takes the same approach as Plucky and Solid Jackson but is softer and more lyrical. The subtle shift in Hesse’s guitar tone matches the song’s flavor.

On Solid Jackson, the whole band jumps and grooves like on Plucky; the musicians in Bradfield’s quintet flow out of each other with joyful changes in direction. Specifically, saxophone and trumpet answer each other through the song’s second section.

It is difficult to tell whether Bradfield and Johnson have been playing together for days or years. They finish each other’s sentences while still sounding fresh about it. The guitar and bass dialog follows the same inventive pattern.

Regardless of where the Bradfield quintet recorded these songs, the entire album gives the listener the experience of being in an intimate Chicago jazz club. The quintet is tight and loose simultaneously and focused on their journey through the music. Listening to Quaver, the listener will feel like they have been there with them.