Atlantic Road Trip
from Paul Towndrow
In which musicians talk about the story and inspiration behind a recording
“Musical projects and endeavours which are truly and successfully collaborative are hard to come by,” says Scottish saxophonist Paul 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.”
The trans-continental collective Atlantic Road Trip has just released its debut album, One, with Chad McCullough (trumpet - USA), Paul Towndrow (alto saxophone, flute, whistles - Scotland), Miro Herak (vibraphone - Slovakia/Holland), Alyn Cosker (drums - Scotland), and Conor Murray (bass - Ireland) .
Chicago-based trumpeter Chad McCullough first met Slovakian vibraphonist Miro Herak in 2009 at the Banff Center for the Arts in Scotland, 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 they called 'Atlantic Road Trip'.
“We stayed in close contact throughout the pandemic and even remotely recorded a set for the 2021 Glasgow Jazz Festival,” remembers Chad 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.
Miro 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 distils Scottish and Slovakian folk traditions, 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,” says Paul Towndrow. His poetic “Pale Ale (Pale Ale/Dr. Jones Never Saw It Coming)” epitomizes this approach, revelling 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.
Listen to White Cart Water
Delving into his Slovakian heritage, Miro Herak offers new interpretations of the traditional folks songs “Hore Haj, Dolu Haj” (pronounced Hoh-ray High, Doh-Lu High and translated as 'Up the meadow, Down the meadow') and “Kopala Studienku, Pozerala do nej.” (pronounced Koh-pah-la Stu-dj-enko Poz-e-rala Doh Nyay and loosely meaning ''She was digging a well and looked into it…'). The latter is the basis of the Slovak national anthem. Miro’s contemplative introduction recalls the origins of his arrangement, a solo vibraphone performance at Carnegie Hall. “Hore Haj,” says Miro, “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.
Listen to Kopala Studienku, Pozerala do nej
With his fiery opener “The Other Fulton Street,” Chad McCullough gives a nod to his adopted Chicago home and the Fulton Street Collective, a frequent outlet for Chad’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.
Atlantic Road Trip will be launching 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.
“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,” says Paul 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.”
Details of the album are here.