Round 'Bout Now: George Schuller
George Schuller – drums and percussion/composer
Donny McCaslin – soprano sax, tenor sax and alto flute
Ingrid Jensen – trumpet and flugelhorn
Tom Beckham – vibes/composer
Dave Ambrosio – bass
Matt Darriau – kaval and bass clarinet (guest appearance)
Pete McCann – guitar (guest appearance)
Sonny Barbato – accordion (guest appearance)
1. Sidecar
2. Blackamoor
3. Vat 19
4. Quiet Ruckus
5. Circle in the Round
6. Miles Later
7. Having Big Fun
8. Filles de Kilimanjaro
After four years of regular live performances around New York, George Schuller's Circle Wide, formerly known as Chump Change, makes its recorded debut, documenting what calls their "rigorous, unpredictable approach to group improvisation." Round 'Bout Now pays tribute to Miles Davis' pre-fusion transitional period, as documented on records like Circle in the Round, Filles de Kilimanjaro, Water Babies and In a Silent Way. Included are Schuller's arrangements of Miles' "Side Car," "Circle in the Round," and "Filles de Kilimanjaro," as well as original works that use that period as a jumping off point. As in his other groups, Schuller's inclusive compositions and arrangements provide the ideal framework for the improvisational abilities of his talented collaborators.
Top 10 CDs of 2004 list
— Aaron Steinberg, JazzTimes ensemble that delivers not just power and line, but also a wider palette of sound.
— The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, 9th. ed.
The presence of Tom Beckham’s vibes combines with trumpet, saxophone, and guitar gives the music a special character, Schuller’s driving style at the kit pushes the music along, but he’s never overbearing about being the leader. A delightfully swinging release, easily recommended.
— Stuart Kremsky, IAJRC Journal
...everything here is played so beautifully...the core group is perfectly balanced, with some inspired quirks – vibes instead of electric piano; accordion, bass clarinet and kaval added just briefly. Just listen to Beckham's "Blackamoor," where all of the voices melt into a seamless stream of ideas. What to do with a contemporary, but nearly picture-perfect copy of the real thing? Enjoy it.
— Greg Buium, Coda
The streamlined, graceful fusion they turn out still sounds recognizably Milesian, though also surprisingly fresh and sharp. Replacing electric/acoustic piano with Beckham's vibes was a brilliant idea and it gives this music a fleet, cool feel, not entirely unlike the Dave Holland Quintet. Schuller (and on one tune, Beckham) leaves his arrangements of both the Davis tunes and the five Miles-inspired originals lithe and uncluttered, and his ensemble responds with balanced, remarkably strong performances...the ensemble work is reason enough to seek this recording out.
— Aaron Steinberg, JazzTimes
...a very distinctive and very good album for fans of inside/outside jazz.
— Mark Keresman,
While the instrumentation might be different, with vibes taking over for the Rhodes for example, Schuller and group do manage to capture the spirit of their muses, both on the reinterpretations and originals. Underrated players like saxophonist Donny McCaslin, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and guitarist Pete McCann easily fill the shoes of the masters, with Jensen's approach proving quite fitting. The highlights, though, are the group originals...this is not parroting of great work, but rather, a document that is both respectful and ambitious at the same time.
— Jay Collins, Cadence
Schuller and his quintet (formerly known as Chump Change and Circle Wide), get as close to the sound and feeling of Miles' floating, otherworldly music of that interval as any band I've heard. The clincher, though, is Schuller's substitution of Tom Beckham's vibes for the Rhodes piano Miles had Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea play. He may be the session's leader, but he chooses to do what leaders do best: advance the group concept and bring out the best in his players. It's a concept of leadership that, like this lovely and haunting CD, does honor to the spirit of its dedicatee.
— John Chacona, One Final Note
Drummer George Schuller is a significant member of today's progressive jazz scene. Whether performing as a sideman or leading his own projects, Schuller's pen represents a potent and forward thinking mindset. The drummer and his musical associates often focus on interleaving dialogues in concert with ascending themes and freeform diversions. No doubt, Schuller is a musical drummer.
— Glenn Astarita,
The outstanding tracks are "Blackamoor" with impressive solos by Jensen and McCaslin, "Vat 19" with a theme reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's "One Finger Snap" and the ingeniously arranged "Circle In the Round", with the amazing combination of kaval, guitar and accordion that brings together eastern, American and European traditions. George Schuller and company manage to give a new dimension to the interesting and hard to handle music of that Miles Davis' period.
— Vangelis Aragiannis, Ipirotikos Agon (Greece)
Tracks like Schuller's 'Quiet Ruckus' successfully bridge the gap between the freer post bop of the Hancock/Shorter/Carter/Williams pieces from Water Babies and the more ambient textures of In a Silent Way. Thoughtful, articulate and inspired, Schuller and the group clearly understand the way in which Miles was carefully pushing things in new directions. And, like Miles, while they incorporate inspirations from other sources, their take is altogether unique; this is an album that, without being aggressive about it, pushes the boundaries of group improvisation.
— John Kelman, AllAboutJazz
...utterly contemporary in its expansive embrace of ethnic and multicultural tones. Percussionist/bandleader Schuller has assembled a terrific ensemble, including saxophonist Donny McCaslin, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, and vibist Tom Beckham, and guest musicians Matt Darriau (kaval, bass clarinet) and guitar Pete McCann provide colorful touches to the effort, which imagines what sort of approach Davis would bring to his sound if he were alive today.
— Seth Rogovoy, Berkshire Eagle
Although Davis' music from that era is gradually being rediscovered, relatively few musicians have chosen to expand upon it and be creative within the genre. Schuller's group succeeds admirably.
— Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
One original touch here is the use of vibraphone rather than electric piano. Tom Beckham's instrument captures much of that old Fender Rhodes sound in the ensemble parts, yet his mellifluous soloing adds a different dimension to the proceedings. The session has a kind of loose togetherness to it, and their professionalism certainly shows in how they bring it all together.
— Marc Chénard, The Squid's Ear
But although Davis is the reference point, this group of talented musicians makes the material their own, using the master to find their own mastery. [Schuller's] intelligence, skill, and love for this music is the backbone holding the group aloft, while simultaneously pushing it forward. This CD can be enjoyed on several levels: those who know Davis' music can appreciate the subtlety of Schuller's arrangements, and those who don't can appreciate an excellent CD full of compelling music.
— Florence Wetzel, AllAboutJazz-New York