Happy 239th birthday, United States!
I don’t blog much. Not much time. I haven’t even put out my Favorites from 2013 or 2014… well, here goes for my Top 10 of 2015 so far…
Artist – Album (style)
- Failure – The Heart is a Monster (rock)
- Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (indie rock)
- Faith No More – Sol Invictus (hard rock)
- Steve Taylor & the Perfect Foil – Goliath (rock)
- Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree) – Hand. Cannot. Erase. (progressive rock)
- Daniel Johns (of Silverchair) – TALK (pop, dance, rock)
- John Zorn’s The Dreamers with Mike Patton, Sofia Rei & Jesse Harris – The Song Project Live at Le Poisson Rouge (jazz, avant garde, pop)
- Dave Douglas – High Risk (jazz with electronics)
- Nellie McKay – My Weekly Reader (cheeky 70s rock tribute)
- DRKWAV (Skerik, Medeski & Deitch) – The Purge (doom, jazz, electronic, all over)
What’s still to come in 2015…
Ben Folds with yMusic, Holy Fuck (no release date, but they recorded it in late 2014), John Zorn (about every month), Puscifer (teaser on their Instagram?), TOOL (music done, lyrics nearing completion?), Charlie Hunter, and based on kickstarters/pledgemusic that I’ve supported: Chali 2Na of Jurassic 5 has a couple more EPs due, Dweezil Zappa, Jeremy Enigk of Sunny Day Real Estate, Jude Christodal, Dylan Carlson of Earth, and Fleming & John.
Will I continue with blogs in the future? I don’t know. :P
Dan – np: Critters Buggin – Stampede
My favorite living trumpet player is most definitely, without a doubt, the wonderful and talented melodic-lyricist Dave Douglas. Next on the docket for him is Be Still, a collection of “deeply personal hymns and originals” with his new quintet featuring Americana vocalist Aoife O’Donovan. It comes out on September 25, 2012, on Dave’s label – Greenleaf Music.
With Dave and (special guest) Aoife, rounding out the quintet is Jon Irabagon, Matt Mitchell, Linda Oh, and Rudy Royston. Dave will also go out on a 50-date U.S. Tour in 2013 to celebrate his 50th birthday. I hope to catch it, as it’s been a while since I’ve seen him.
More press on Be Still below…
Dave Douglas describes the title of his new release, Be Still, as “aspirational.” The continually evolving trumpeter and composer settles down for a ballad-like set that presents a series of hymns and folk songs with an intensely personal connection. Be Still brings out the most lyrical side of Douglas, and introduces both a newly configured Quintet, and an important new collaborator, vocalist and guitarist Aoife O’Donovan.
“Evolving” could easily apply to most of Dave Douglas’ releases, each of which seems to venture fearlessly into unexplored territory. This time, the journey is inward rather than outward, resulting in the most starkly personal album of his notable career. The intensity of Douglas’ focus on the music of Be Still is understandable given the album’s origins.
Douglas’ mother passed away last year after a three-year battle with ovarian cancer, and the hymns on this album appeared on a list she prepared for him to play at her memorial service. Douglas performed the music with his brass group at the service and an accompanying benefit concert. “Be Still My Soul” was one of those hymns, and the verses she chose to be sung felt to Douglas like a powerful imperative to go deeper with these church hymns and their meanings.
In the months after the service he continued to work with arranging the music, though initially reluctant to include the lyrics. On meeting O’Donovan in January of this year Douglas decided he had found the right vocal expression for the arrangements he wanted to make. The pieces on Be Still present a true marriage of folk song, congregational hymnody, sophisticated harmonies and rich rhythmic underpinnings.
When Douglas calls the album aspirational, he’s also referring to its title and the deceptively simple message it contains. “It’s a reminder to myself,” he says. “We are all so busy these days, and it’s a reminder to step back and reflect on creativity and depth of communication in the music. There are deep human interactions that go on in improvised music like this and they take time and patience to develop. Sometimes that means stepping away from the clutter of Twitter, Facebook, texting and traveling to focus on the essence of music in an intense way.”
Be Still marks the recorded debut of the new incarnation of the Dave Douglas Quintet, completed by four remarkably diverse musicians: saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh, and drummer Rudy Royston. They are joined on six songs by the expressive vocals of Aoife O’Donovan of the progressive bluegrass band Crooked Still. The repertoire mines the rich melodies of traditional hymns and folk tunes, which gain even greater depth through Douglas’ intricate arrangements.
While the material on Be Still comes from traditions that Douglas may not have explicitly evoked in the past, the album is hardly out of character. His work has always concentrated on direct communication, basic emotions couched in complex expression. “I’m always looking, even in my own composition, to find some way to make something that might be very sophisticated still have these roots in something very simple,” Douglas says. “Jazz, even at its most complex, always has its roots in the music of the people, in popular music. That’s one of the reasons that I connected with these songs.”
Folk music purists would undoubtedly be affected by the crystalline clarity of O’Donovan’s voice on the tender “Be Still My Soul” or the Appalachian stomp of “High on a Mountain.” But underlying that back porch folksiness are intriguing harmonies and clever soloing, embodied by Irabagon’s pitch-perfect countrypolitan sax solo on “High on a Mountain.”
In addition to the classic songs, Douglas penned three new compositions for the album in the same spirit. “Living Streams” is a completely new setting for a traditional Scottish hymn, while “Going Somewhere With You” is as lushly tuneful as the surrounding material. The quintet tour de force “Middle March” was written just after Douglas heard the news of the death of legendary drummer Paul Motian and possesses a free-floating lyricism familiar from Motian’s own compositions.
Be Still is merely the latest new direction in a career that has been full of them, all pointing forward. One of the most influential and inventive composers and trumpeters in modern jazz, Dave Douglas leads several creative ensembles: Keystone, which performs his music composed for and inspired by film; Brass Ecstasy, the eclectic brass band; and his latest, the Sound Prints Quintet with Joe Lovano, Lawrence Fields, Linda Oh, and Joey Baron. He has served as the artistic director of the Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music at The Banff Centre in Canada for ten seasons, an honor he recently handed over to pianist/composer Vijay Iyer. Dave Douglas is also co-founder and director of the Festival of New Trumpet Music, which celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2012.
This latest incarnation of the Dave Douglas Quintet fully lives up to its diverse and ground-breaking predecessors. Saxophonist Jon Irabagon’s unpredictable career has led him from the off-the-wall antics of Mostly Other People Do the Killing to his decidedly straightahead leader debut The Observer, released shortly after he won the 2008 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition. Matt Mitchell’s piano work strays from classical to the avant-garde, and lately has found him collaborating with innovators like John Hollenbeck and Tim Berne.
Chinese-Malay-Aussie bassist Linda Oh grabbed the jazz world’s attention with her self-released debut Entry in 2009, and further cemented her place as one of the music’s rising stars with this year’s Initial Here on Douglas’ Greenleaf Music. She reteams with her drummer from that album, Rudy Royston, in the Douglas quintet. Royston is best known for his long association with guitarist Bill Frisell, but his credits also include Ravi Coltrane, Jenny Scheinman, Jason Moran and Don Byron.
In the hands of these five musicians, these tunes are undeniably spiritual – but that’s less a result of their origins than the quintet’s deeply personal collective approach. “Music, in the way that I practice it, is my spiritual life,” Douglas says.
“My mother was pretty specific about the verses that she wanted sung, and as I started looking at them I realized I felt right at home here. You search a lot of places in your life. Especially from knowing so many evolved musicians I feel I’ve been exposed to many different traditions and different ways of viewing our place in the world. It’s amazing how all of them seem to lead back to the same place of unity and oneness. After working on this music and being in my mother’s church it felt like a return to the spiritual outlook I started out with, but with a deeper understanding and meaning for me. And now I don’t know, maybe that’s what she was really after!”
As I start this post, I will say that this is all very subjective and really put together for my own purposes. I’ll also state that, yes, some of the music below does have some vocals (i.e.- the Goddamn Electric Bill & Mike Patton CDs). For the most part, it’s sequestered to a track or two on a long CD of mostly instrumental goodness. My list, my rules, and/or my breaking of the rules. With that being said, all of the artists below tend to be in the jazz and instrumental frame of reference anyway.
As said before… I’ve been buying less music… or, at least a lot less mainstream (major label) music. This is also my fourth year now that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs. I think as I get older, I am drawn more towards jazz and other instrumental forms of expression. Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out the artists’ webpages, Facebox pages, yadda yadda yadda. Some of these also made it on to my 2011 Mix CD (free streaming/download).
OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…
Note: Ric Hordinski’s Arthur’s Garden (which made it on my 2011 Mix) is technically a 2012 release, hence its absence above.
Where do I get most of these jazz and other instrumental releases? My #1 favorite source for jazz is Downtown Music Gallery in New York. Manny and Bruce and their great staff are superb… and being the official distributor for John Zorn’s Tzadik doesn’t hurt my affection for them. I usually do a monthly Tzadik order (if the releases strike my fancy), and they have a ton of other non-Tzadik jazz and avant-garde releases as well.
And, no, I’m not affiliated, I don’t get a commission, and beyond my initial “big tax refund / gotta get caught up on Zorn order of 2005,” I haven’t gotten a discount with DMG. I just love and support what they do.
Enjoy the New Years’ weekend!! Be safe! See you in 2012.
My Other Favorites of 2011 Recaps:
- Fave Concerts & Photos of ‘11 are recapped *HERE*
- Fave EPs/Vinyl/Live/DVDs/more of ‘11 are *HERE*
- Fave Vocal Albums ‘11 are *HERE*
- Old Years:
This fall is turning into a flippin’ brilliant season for new music… My Brightest Diamond, Wussy, and Puscifer… all gems. Now some more…
Cincinnati-based singer-songwriter Jason Ludwig (formerly of Noctaluca) released two new albums last Friday. I’ve spent a few days with them, and I LOVE-love-LOVE them. I can’t say which one, Lost in Love or Tanglings, that I like more – but they’re both vying for a spot on my Best Albums of 2011 List. They’re only available as a digital download (mp3 or FLAC) via Jason’s bandcamp page, but the awesome part… they’re only $5 each.
Go to jasonludwig.com for samples and then buy them. Well-produced, well-arranged, creative singer-songwriter that reminds me of a cross between the pop of Glen Hansard (of the Swell Season and the Frames) and the creative of Daniel Johns (of Silverchair). If you don’t like them, I’d be surprised.
More new music news…
My favorite living trumpet-player/composer, Dave Douglas, started a new digital download music series this year on his record label, Greenleaf Music, called GPS (Greenleaf Portable Series). Greenleaf recently launched a cloud player with their entire catalog, they’re putting out an iPad/iPhone App, and they just announced that they’re going to put out the three GPS releases thus far (Rare Metals, Orange Afternoons, Bad Mango) as an extremely limited 3-CD boxset called Three Views.
More info coming soon from Greenleaf, but it’s expected before year’s end.
New “Greenleaf Portable Series” release from Dave Douglas & So Percussion… GPS Vol 3: Bad Mango:
The digital album comes out October 11th, 2011, on Greenleaf Music on mp3/FLAC.
A glimpse of the new Dave Douglas release just popped up on Greenleaf Music’s blog…
United Front: Brass Ecstasy at Newport comes out April 5th, 2011. Stay tuned here or at Greenleaf Music for details as they emerge.