Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Shull, Tad (Thomas Barclay Shull, Jr.)
Shull, Tad [Thomas Barclay Shull, Jr.], tenor saxophonist, arranger, composer, clarinet flute player and writer. Born 10/15/55. Norwalk, CT, he grew up in Westport, CT, an adjacent town. His father is Thomas Barclay Shull Sr. an advertising and television executive (b. 1/29/20, d. 6/9/99, Chicago, IL), his mother is Eleanor Watt Shull (b. 8/4/25, Montclair, NJ), and his sister is Sally Shull Judd (b. 1/15/60, Norwalk, CT).
Shull's tenor saxophone style combines modern harmonic vocabulary with an approach to the instrument inspired by Coleman Hawkins. Leading players in that approach, whom Shull admires, are Don Byas, Lucky Thompson, Lockjaw Davis and Sonny Rollins. Shull began studying music in Westport Public Schools. From 1966 to 1972, he took saxophone, band and theory with John Adams, James Boston and John Hanulik. Shull also began to perform in public in a swing dance band led by local saxophonist Fred Robinson, at age thirteen, as well as blues and rock and roll bands. He also studied jazz piano and improvisation with John Mehegan in Westport in 1970 and 1971.
At the age of sixteen, he studied saxophone and jazz improvisation with David Liebman (1971-73) and then studied improvisation at eighteen with Richard Bierach (1973-4). At nineteen, he entered New England Conservatory (attended 1974-76), where he took private lessons with master saxophone teacher Joe Allard and performed with Gunther Schuller and Jaki Byard. Whereas Liebman and Bierach focused on Coltrane's harmonic and instrumental language, New England Conservatory brought strong exposure to all earlier forms of jazz.
Shull moved to New York in 1978 and began to work in the midtown swing clubs thriving at that time, such as Jimmy Ryan's and Eddie Condon's. Shull received musical apprenticeship there from Roy Eldridge, Jimmy Rowles, Eddie Locke and Bobby Pratt, among the many swing/mainstream era veterans who were active then. In 1981-82, Shull was a part of the Smithsonian Jazz Repertory Ensemble directed by Bob Wilber, with whom he also took clarinet lessons at that time and shortly after. He joined the Widespread Depression Jazz Orchestra shortly afterward, touring extensively with that group during the rest of the 1980s, and leading or playing in groups until around 1997.
In 1990, Shull turned almost entirely to leading his own quartets or quintets. His groups generally include Mike LeDonne or Ray Gallon on piano, Dennis Irwin on bass, and Kenny Washington on drums. In the course of his career, he has performed as leader or featured soloist throughout the United States, and in Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Spain, and Switzerland. Venues include Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Montreal Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival. Shull has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Joe Williams, Cab Calloway, and Woody Herman. In 2002, he was the featured tenor saxophonist in several tributes to Billy Strayhorn sponsored by the Duke Ellington Society and Jazz at Lincoln Center, playing little known works by the composer copied from manuscripts by Dutch musicologist Walter van de Leur.
Tad Shull earned a Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University in 1996. Since then he has taught, published a number of writings about politics, music and culture, and served as a marketing consultant.
He is married to Sigrun Kaland (b. 9/7/60 in Norway) and has a daughter, Susanna Kaland Shull (b. 11/13/00 in New York).
Deep Passion (1990); In the Land of the Tenor (1993); Tenor Triangle (with Ralph Lalama and Eric Alexander: Tell It Like It Is (1993), Aztec Blues (1994); Two Tenor Ballads (with Mark Turner) (1995)
Widespread Depression Jazz Orchestra: Swing is the Thing (1983), Paris Blues (1985); Jordan Sandke: Rhythm is Our Business (1985)
While with Widespread Depression, he was interviewed on NBC Nightly News in 1982, and for Japanese Television News in 1997 while appearing as headliner at the Village Gate, New York City. Shull also participated in creating the soundtrack for a PBS Production of Clifford Odetts' "Rocket to the Moon" 1986, as part of Widespread Depression.
He is the author of Redefining Red and Green: Ideology and Strategy in European Political Ecology (State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, 1999). Among his writings on music are "When Backward Comes Out Ahead: Lucky Thompson's Phrasing and Improvisation," Annual Review of Jazz Studies 12 (2003).
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