Chuck Deardorf

  CD cover, TransparenceEARSHOT JAZZ: Perception
By Paul De Barros

Warm, intimate, fluid and expressive, this lovely album evokes the gentle contours and subtle gradations of light portrayed in its alluring cover photographs of sun-flooded forest glens. Seattle bass maestro and longtime Cornish College instructor Chuck Deardorf’s third album as a leader, Perception, is less plugged-in than previous outings—his rich, full acoustic sound anchors all but one track—yet remains rooted in both straight-ahead and ’60- ‘70s fusion feels. To its core piano trios of Dawn Clement and Matt Wilson (six tracks) and Marc Seales and Gary Hobbs (three), Deardorf artfully builds arrangements topped mostly with tenor saxophone (Hans Teuber), but also with flugelhorn (Jay Thomas and Thomas Marriott) and trombone (David Marriott). The bassist draws tunes from the books of Kenny Barron (with whom Deardorf has worked), Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, Steve Swallow, Stevie Winwood, Thelonious Monk and Seattle’s own Jim Knapp; Deardorf also improvises a free duo with Wilson.

Knapp’s slinky, bluesy, Mingus-like creep, “Home,” is a standout, with Deardorf paring down the original big band arrangement (on Knapp’s Secular Breathing) to a rich three-horn combo. The bassist’s lickety-split virtuosity gets plenty of elbow room (though it’s never overbearing) on DeJohnette’s emotionally-urgent “Silver Hollow” (acoustic bass guitar) and Swallow’s elegant “Falling Grace” (fretless electric). Deardorf takes the lead on acoustic on a jaunty “Monk’s Dream” and offers two sweet solos on Winwood’s classic, gospel-tinged ballad, which closes the album. Teuber’s piping, legato and Clement’s lively conversations with Wilson are a pleasure throughout, as is Seales’ sparkling outing on “Falling Grace” one of many solos worth singling out.

By Michael Steinman
Bassist Deardorf’s Transparence (5) also has its own integrity—rooted in the recent Jazz past without being overtly nostalgic or imitative. A few of the selections are too “electric” for my taste, but my taste is admittedly narrow. The acoustic tracks—featuring pianist Mays, altoist Teuber, and a variety of guitarists—are simply lovely. Deardorf is not afraid of beauty; playing a ballad with sincerity and gentleness is in his very nature; he is comfortable at slow and medium tempos (letting his notes ring) and he knows how to swing, as a soloist or as a generous member of a small group. “Collage,” “Alone Together,” “Bruzette,” “Moon and Sand,” “Sweet Lorraine,” and “The Peacocks” show him to be a musician of deep feeling. In a world full of hear-it-once-and-give-it-away compact discs, this one is a true keeper.

Earshot Jazz, May 2011 Cover 

By Steve Griggs
Chuck Deardorf perches on a stool at the back of the stage, the best view of the audience. His vantage point is ideal for a bass player’s role as harmonic backbone and center of gravity for the groove. The club’s wooden stage amplifes low notes. Where inexperienced bassists would produce unfocused booms, Deardorf ’s tone is even and clear over the entire neck of his German acoustic bass, built in the late 1800s. His fingers crawl over the strings like a spider. Quick solo phrases end on a brief sustained note with a touch of vibrato. His sound is refined, precise, fluid – reminiscent of ECM recordings from the late 1970s.

An Interview with Chuck Deardorf

…I have a theory that instruments choose you, you think you choose them, but they kind of call your name. I was a trombone player, and I was playing in big bands, and you know as horn players, especially in big bands, you play a little bit and then you just sit there for a while, and then you play some more and then you sit. And I found myself always listening to the bass player, because they get to play the whole time, and I thought, wow they sound like they’re having a lot more fun then I am. 'Cause they’re just in the music, and the bass just shapes the music so much. You have a lot of responsibility and freedom to really determine where the music goes. And so the bass just started calling my name and I responded. READ MORE >

CD cover, TransparenceRifftides
By Doug Ramsey

Deardorf’s prowess is hardly unknown outside Seattle, even though he rarely leaves the Pacific Northwest. For a quarter-century or more he has been a mainstay of the Seattle scene and a primary on-call bassist for dozens of visiting musicians including Chet Baker, Zoot Sims, George Cables, Art Farmer, Jimmy Rowles and Kenny Burrell. In Transparence, he is out front in a collection that underlines his musicianship, versatility and leadership. The settings encompass a variety of moods and genres—mainstream bop, Brazilian impressionism, standard ballads, a flirtation with freebop, a bow toward Deardorf’s rock beginnings. But it is far from a hodgepodge. Despite changing combinations of players from track to track, the strength of Deardorf’s overarching musical personality provides consistency.

The wholeness is enhanced by his choice of sidemen, not only Seattle and Portland stalwarts like saxophonists Hans Teuber and Richard Cole, drummers Mark Ivester and Gary Hobbs, and pianist Jovino Santos Neto, but also visiting firemen, pianist Bill Mays and guitarist Bruce Forman. Among the highlights: Deardorf’s “Collage” with Teuber, Mays and Hobbs; duets with Mays on Alec Wilder’s “Moon and Sand” and Forman on “Sweet Lorraine;” the atmospherics Deardorf generates on electric bass in Lennon and McCartney’s “Dear Prudence” and on acoustic bass guitar with Santos Neto on “De Mansinho.” Deardorf is the melody voice in a memorable colloquy with Mays’ piano and Teuber’s tenor sax on Rowles’ “The Peacocks.” This is an album of substance.

Jazz Times
By Thomas Conrad

Most major American cities (and, for that matter, most European ones) contain a jazz musician who is the default bassist of record. You run into them all over town, in all manner of ensembles, kicking ass and taking names.

In Seattle, Wash., it is Chuck Deardorf. He is known for making other people sound good, not leading his own projects. But Transparence argues that he is also a strong and smart bandleader. Deardorf blends various configurations of the 14 musicians and combines sessions recorded in several places over three years into a coherent album statement with continuity of tone. It is no mean trick. His own voice is the primary unifying factor. He is a quick, clear rhythm-section player and an articulate, interesting soloist on all of his instruments: acoustic, Toucan and Fender fretless basses and acoustic bass guitar.

The roster of 14 includes strong players from Seattle (alto saxophonist Hans Teuber, pianist Jovino Santos Nero, tenor saxophonist Richard Cole) and elsewhere (pianist Bill Mays, guitarists Bruce Forman and Rick Peckham). Most of the ensembles are duos, trios or quartets, and there is a string bias. (Four different guitarists interact with Deardorf's basses.) On "Alone Together," Forman's electric guitar and Deardorf's acoustic bass create resonant blends and suggestive contrasts. The same instrumental combination, with Rick Peckham on guitar, portrays Jobim's gentle "Zingaro" as something edgy and twangy.

Deardorf makes inspired song choices like "The Peacocks." The version here is one of the permanent recordings of Jimmy Rowles' atmospheric masterpiece. Deardorf and Mays and Teuber allow the song to keep its secrets. Together and apart, they just beautifully float with it.

Jazz Society of Oregon
By George Fendel

A veteran of countless recording da tes, Deardorf has been a Rock of Gibraltar on the Seattle jazz map for decades. On this intriguing recording, he "mixes and matches" various tunes with different combinations of piano, guitar, drums, tenor and alto sax, percussionists and other participants. A few of the best known names, none of which appear on all tunes, are Bill Mays, piano, Bruce Forman, guitar, and Gary Hobbs, drums. Mays is always a fountain of creativity, and is heard to great effect here in a duo with Deardorf on Alec Wilder's "Moon and Sand." Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacocks" features tenor man Hans Teuber and Mays in as poignant a version as I've heard. Other selections which caught my ear include a Freddie Green-like Bruce Forman on "Sweet Lorraine"; guitarist Rick Peckham on Jobim's "Zingaro"; Teuber and Mays on "Collage," a tune in tribute to two of Deardorf's late colleagues, Bud Shank and Don Lanphere; and Forman and Hobbs on the standard, "Alone Together." All in all, this is an adventurous recording from one of the Seattle's most admired players.

Seattle Weekly
By Mark Fefer
If there's a distinct sound to Seattle jazz, and I think there is, these two longtime Cornish instructors have helped define it. Celebrating their new disc, Portal, on Ballard's Origin label, they and some veteran pals deliver a quintessential mainstream Seattle session: relaxed, light on its feet, gregarious. On bass, Deardorf has a gorgeous deep resonance, his ideas always flowing and well considered; Peterson's no-fuss hollow-body guitar manages to swing without being too boppy. Pianist George Cables (once Dexter's main man) is on Portal and on board for this show as well.

All About Jazz
By Dan McClenaghan

With an urbane, beautifully harmonic, clean-edged sound, Portal seems an updated brand of West Coast cool, by way of the Northwest (Seattle) this time around, like a mix of Chico Hamilton's chamber bands, the fluid guitar work of Wes Montgomery, and that dry, cool approach of Paul Desmond's sax work stirred up in one groove-oriented band. Dave Peterson's guitar combined with George Cables' piano kick the harmonic mix up a notch or three on a set that depends more on the group sound than it does out-in-front soloing.

"Rhythm Tune" showcases drummer John Bishop's complex and engaging percussion work; and I must admit it took a couple of spins of the disc to appreciate his stuff. He rides with the flow and doesn't call attention to himself, with a busy style that weaves all manner of textures behind the soundscape. The more I listen to other Origin discs on which he plays (Brent Jensen/Rob Walker Quintet with New Stories), the more apparent the importance his contribution to the group sound becomes.

With the exception of "Mr. Schmeil," a two-minute bass solo by Deardorf, and the closer, Wayne Shorter's "Ana Maria," the tunes are all Dave Peterson originals, full of sharp gleaming edges and shining facets and neat grooves, catchy, stick-in-the-head melodies, and a very accessible sound that reveals deeper complexities on multiple listens. It's a great group sound that rewards separate spins just to listen to each member's individual contribution.

All Music Guide
By Adam Greenburg

Longtime Seattle jazzmen (and professors at one of the official bastions of jazz education, Cornish) Chuck Deardorf and Dave Peterson have been playing together for quite some time, and have each appeared on a number of albums. Despite this, it's only now that they've gotten a proper debut. The works they perform here are essentially all originals from Peterson, with the exception of a short track from Deardorf, Wayne Shorter's "Ana Maria," and the heavily performed "Invitation" from the old movie track writers Kaper and Webster. The most notable performances here are in the hands of Peterson on guitar and Deardorf on bass (in particular, check out the solos in "Rhythm Tune" and "Ana Maria"), as one would expect. Equally notable, though, is saxophone powerhouse Hans Teuber, who maintains a strong presence regardless of the tune, and stalwart drummer (and label founder) John Bishop. Bay pianist George Cables does a fine job of keeping the group together with some thick comping bouts, but remains largely in the background. Overall, it's a nice, solid album, as much from the Origin label is. Give it a spin or two for the group dynamic alone, and build from there.

Earshot Jazz
By Steve Cline

Musicians and jazz lovers of all ages were tightly packed into Jazz Alley in late April to celebrate the occasion of some of Seattle's finest professional improvising artists producing one of their own. The sidemen have come to the front with the release of Portal (Origin Arts) by the Deardorf/Peterson Group.

Bassist Chuck Deardorf, guitarist Dave Peterson, saxophonist Hans Teuber, and drummer John Bishop are each so en-trenched in the Seattle jazz scene that it is hard to imagine a scene without them. All have been here most, if not all, of their professional careers. Deardorf arrived in his teens from Minnesota. Peterson is a product of Everett. Both have taught for years at Cornish College of the Arts, passing their knowledge on to the future.

Portal, then, seems like the unpretentious essence of the city's jazz community. Straight-ahead jazz brought from the heart by professional craftsmen.

While Deardorf has the presence of a band leader on stage, Portal's program is largely from the pen of Peterson. Seven of the ten tracks are Dave Peterson compositions. A Deardorf improvisation and a pair of standards cover the set. Peterson's own work is rooted in the hard-bop of the sixties and the sweeping melodicism of '80s Pat Metheny.

Pianist George Cables, who made the April Jazz Alley gig (and was featured in a small solo set), is on the record as well, though hardly featured. Cables falls into the spirit of collaboration easily, tastefully supporting the quartet and showing a sensitivity of understanding that betrays his years of playing with Deardorf and Peterson at Port Townsend.

So the love and admiration that was so evident at Jazz Alley was refreshing in its depth. Finally these guys have one they can call their own.

Seattle Times
By Paul deBarros

Bassist Chuck Deardorf has been a yeoman on the Seattle jazz scene for more than 25 years. His muscular sound and Gibraltar-like time have been heard locally behind everyone from Abbey Lincoln and Chet Baker to Art Farmer and Mark Murphy. After spending a career in the shadows, Deardorf finally has stepped into the spotlight with an album under his own name.

Well, half-under, anyway. Ever the support player, Deardorf shares leadership with guitarist Dave Peterson on his fine debut disc, Portal (Origin), and gives cover credit to his guest, New York pianist George Cables, too. The Deardorf/Peterson Quartet is rounded out by drummer John Bishop and saxophonist Hans Teuber.

The group (sans Cables) performs at 5:30 p.m. Thursday as part of the pleasant (and tasty) outdoor Barbecue Jazz Night series at Interbay Golf Course, 2501 15th Ave. W., Seattle (free; 206-285-2200).

"We had all these tunes Dave and I played together over the years, and we thought it was high time to get them recorded," Deardorf explained. "I'd thought about doing it for years, but the change came when I saw John Bishop's record company (Origin) take off."

Bishop started Origin in 1997 to design and distribute self-produced albums by regional and other artists.

Deardorf and Peterson both teach at Cornish College and came up in Seattle in the late '70s and early '80s, back when clubs like Parnell's and the old Jazz Alley in the University District had work for local sidemen.

"That was like graduate school," recalled Deardorf. "I got to work with Kenny Barron, Kenny Burrell, Joe Williams, Kirk Lightsey, James Williams. It was the right place at the right time. When jazz came back enough that the New York people were able to tour with their own groups, it ended."

Originally from Minnesota, Deardorf had been studying music at The Evergreen State College (though he taught himself bass). Everett-bred Peterson was a recent graduate from Western Washington University. They hit it off immediately.

"I liked his sound," recalled the bassist, whose influences include Ray Brown, Dave Holland, Ron Carter and Miroslav Vitous. "His ideas were always fresh, toward early Pat Metheny, John Abercrombie, that ECM school, but never just that pastel stuff, always with an undercurrent of blues, which is where I like to live."

The mix of visionary mist and blue-collar grit Deardorf describes is distinctively Northwest and was defined, in part, by his generation. "Portal" offers a lovely voyage through that territory, underscored metaphorically by the cover images — the dreamy grand piazza of Siena, Italy, on the front, and a plain doorway in working class Alfama, the old quarter of Lisbon, Portugal, on the back.

"It's a kind of portal into the music world," said the bassist, who turned 50 when the album came out in April, "a personal portal, as well," he added. "That's a good theme."

The disc highlights the sumptuous compositions of Peterson, including the title track, a sinuous line graced with the guitarist's warm glow. "That's the Deal," a vamping blues, features Cables on Fender Rhodes (keyboard). "Rhythm Tune," a catchy line based on the harmony of George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm," gives saxophonist Teuber a nice opening to blow. "Crazy Heart" and "Song For Lee," the latter written for Peterson's wife, are gorgeous ballads. A solo track showcases Deardorf's bright ideas, supple phrasing, tough technique and springy sound.

"Portal" is getting airplay around the country, particularly on local jazz stations, and has received some nice reviews.

"Nobody's bought any Lamborghinis yet," cracked the bassist, "but it seems to be doing OK."

All Music Guide
By Stewart Mason

Although they sport one of those old-school jazz combo names that makes them sound like the sort of fusty, hidebound corporation that underwrites political-affairs roundtables on PBS ("This program is made possible by a grant from the Deardorf Peterson Group"), the Deardorf Peterson Group are at least as musically with it as hipper-named acts like the Bad Plus and E.S.T. (aka the Esbjörn Svensson Trio). Though the Deardorf Peterson Group start with a clean, melodic sound highly reminiscent of the West Coast cool artists of the 1950s and '60s (Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, Chet Baker, Vince Guaraldi, etc.), there's a hip, post-bop exploratory quality to their music that keeps them from ever coming close to mere smooth crossover pop-jazz, full of tasty licks and mellow grooves.

The core of the Deardorf Peterson Group, logically enough, is bassist Chuck Deardorf and guitarist and composer Dave Peterson. A native of the Pacific Northwest who studied music at Olympia's bohemian enclave Evergreen State College, Deardorf has maintained an active performance and recording career as a sideman on the West Coast while remaining committed to jazz education, first as an instructor at Western Washington University and later as the administrator of the highly acclaimed music department at Seattle's Cornish College. Peterson graduated with a degree in composition from the music department at Western Washington University in 1977 and in the same year accepted a teaching position at Cornish College, where he has remained while maintaining an active career as a composer and sideman for artists like Cedar Walton, Diane Schuur, and Richard Cole. Though Deardorf and Peterson regularly played together since the late '70s, their debut as co-bandleaders didn't come around until 2004's excellent Portal, on which they were joined by saxophonist Hans Teuber, pianist George Cables, percussionist Michael Spiro, and drummer John Bishop.