Thursday, June 3, 2010

Great Live Albums: Dave Douglas

Dave Douglas (trumpet; coronet; b. 1963)
Live At The Jazz Standard (Greenleaf Music, 2006)

Uri Caine (fender rhodes)
Donny McCaslin (sax)
James Genus (bass)
Clarence Penn (drums)

New York mainstay, Dave Douglas is one my favourite trumpeters of the current generation. He is arguably in the handful of musicians who are consistently making challenging and diverse music year after year. Many of my friends feel for this reason he really isn't that creative or originally. Some have said he's like Bowie or Madonna--a chameleon--who becomes whatever their attached to at the moment. Well that might be a good analogy, I think with all three they end up producing some amazing material with whatever might interest them at the moment. And you can't say that about most musicians from any genre currently.

Dave Douglas has worked in various settings; ensembles, quintets, quartets and big bands. He is also a member of another of another New York native, John Zorn's Masada, who are consistently performing and releasing stellar material that confounds critics and listeners alike.

One of the best things I've always enjoyed about Dave Douglas is his live performances. And nowhere else is the originality and technique more apparent than when his quintet performed a six night residency at another one of my favourite jazz clubs in 2006, The Jazz Standard in NYC. I was only in attendance at one date but over the span of six night Douglas debuted new material as well performed critical tracks from a series of albums during that time (The Infinite, Strange Liberation and Meaning and Mystery).

The entire residency was recorded and released as downloads only his own label website, Greeleaf Music, but they later released a 2 disc set that is perfect for the casual fan. Live At The Jazz Standard (Greanleaf Music) is in essence a new album since it features mostly the new material that Douglas had been working on and performing during the residency.

This a group that Douglas has been working with for years so their interaction is impeccable. One of the other amazing things about this set is that Douglas chose to perform on cornet which for the non jazz listens may not make a difference but it what it essential does in this setting is allow the rest of the band to come to forefront.The work by longtime collaborator, Uri Caine (organ) is fantastic and some of the solo work from both Douglas and Donny McCaslin (sax) is truly delirious. These recordings will have going back forth from your Miles electric era to Dave Douglas albums all weekend long.

While most of the tracks will hark back to that golden era of Bitches Brew, Silent Way and Jack Johnson there is no denying that Douglas carves his own stone with songs like "Navigations," "Indian Point," "Seth Thomas," and the lovely blues-inflected "Leaving Autumn". Live At The Jazz Standard also features what is becoming a standard for Douglas "A Single Sky"-- an expansive piece that he has done is various incarnation, more recently on his big band album entitled A Single Sky (Greenleaf Music).
Live At The Jazz Standard is funky, blissful, cerebral and smoothly effective. Dave Douglas is one of the few musicians who can absorb themes and truly create something new and original every single time out. While I would advise die hard jazz fans to download all the dates (definitely expensive--I hope you have a job), everyone else should for sure check out the two disc version of Live At The Jazz Standard for a musician who continues to push jazz forward.

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