George Schuller has led a number of noteworthy creative jazz groups over the years -- from the large ensemble Orange Then Blue to the double saxophone-driven quartet Schulldogs to the piano-bass-drums George Schuller Trio -- while also playing an important collaborative and/or supporting role in various other bands, including Conference Call and the Michael Musillami Trio. Circle Wide, formed by the drummer/composer/bandleader in 1999, is one of his most long-lived outfits. The group's 2003 Playscape label debut, Round 'Bout Now, was a tribute to the transitional era of Miles Davis before the trumpeter fully embarked on a fusion direction (as exemplified by an album like Filles de Kilimanjaro), and featured Schuller on drums, cymbals, and "things you shake," leading a core quintet that included trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, saxophonist/flutist Donny McCaslin, vibraphonist Tom Beckham, and bassist Dave Ambrosio (with guests reedman Matt Darriau, guitarist Pete McCann, and accordionist Sonny Barbato).
McCaslin, Beckham, and Ambrosio returned for Circle Wide's 2008 sophomore outing, Like Before, Somewhat After (this time paying tribute to Keith Jarrett's quartet with Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, and Paul Motian), featuring the addition of guitarist Brad Shepik to the lineup (along with Jamey Haddad guesting on percussion). In 2012 Playscape released Circle Wide's third album, Listen Both Ways, comprised mainly of Schuller compositions (plus "Jesus Maria" by Carla Bley and "Edwin" by Margo Guryan) and featuring the quintet of Schuller, Beckham, Ambrosio, Shepik, and tenor saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum. ~ Dave Lynch