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Dave Douglas – Be Still

16th Jul 12 (Mon) Leave a comment

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!”

~Dan – np: Levi WeaverThe Letters of Dr. Kurt Gödel

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Jason Ludwig’s 2 new albums / Dave Douglas boxset

20th Oct 11 (Thu) Leave a comment

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.

~Dan – np: My Brightest DiamondAll Things Will Unwind

Dave Douglas & So Percussion – Bad Mango [new jazz]

9th Sep 11 (Fri) Leave a comment

New “Greenleaf Portable Series” release from Dave Douglas & So PercussionGPS Vol 3: Bad Mango:



The digital album comes out October 11th, 2011, on Greenleaf Music on mp3/FLAC.

~Dan – np: TeslaFive Man Acoustical Jam

Dave Douglas – United Front (April 5th)

25th Feb 11 (Fri) Leave a comment

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.

~Dan – np: Palo AltoPalo Alto

Dave Douglas & Keystone – Spark of Being

11th May 10 (Tue) Leave a comment

From the Greenleaf Music blog

Spark Of Being: Soundtrack

Dave Douglas: “Keystone and I have finished our new recording and it will be released very soon. Here is the cover of the first album in the trilogy of CDs and we’re all really excited about the collaboration with filmmaker Bill Morrison on Spark of Being. ‘Soundtrack’ is the first release of three — it’s the music from the actual film. We’ve documented much more than that, with two CDs of Keystone recordings from the sessions in Stanford.

We’ll be making a big push for this first release as well as for the three CD set and new subscription podcasts and conversations.

I think you’ll enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.”

Sweeeet… more news will be posted when I hear the word…

~Dan – np: Holy FuckLatin

Dave Douglas – A Single Sky

2nd Oct 09 (Fri) Leave a comment

I got the SF Jazz Collective‘s Live 2009 CD in the mail the other day. It’s a smokin’ hot remembrance for me of the show they put on at The Shedd in February of this year.  The SF Jazz Collective features Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano, Miguel Zenon, and many more great musicians.  The new SFJC CD set put my Dave Douglas 2009 music count up to 7 ¾ hours… that includes the excellent Brass Ecstasy Spirit Moves CD, the BE: On Stage Live series, the Masada Book Two’s New Masada Quintet (with Joe Lovano) playing Stolas, and the SFJC Live 2009.

Well, yesterday I logged in to my Greenleaf Music Subscriber page (as it’s a new month, and I wanted to see if they had any new treats), and they had some samples of the new Dave Douglas A Single Sky CD.  I checked my email, and “bam!” there’s an email notifying me of pre-order status of the new album – due out October 27th (I must have been sleeping).

It features Jim McNeely and the Frankfurt Radio Bigband.  The collaboration offers three new Douglas compositions alongside four works from the Douglas songbook reimagined by McNeely.  Find out more HERE.

~Dan – np: Dave Douglas – “The Presidents” from A Single Sky

REVIEW: Wynton Marsalis & LCJO @ Hult (Eugene, OR – 9/17/09)

18th Sep 09 (Fri) Leave a comment

Well, I got into Wynton Marsalis from Ken Burns’ (long ass) JAZZ documentary.  I had heard of him, but never really heard him, and he was featured heavily in the movie.  I came to find out that he was the artistic director & co-producer of the documentary series.  Anyway, I love trumpet (Dave Douglas & Steven Bernstein being top of my other Top 3 living trumpeters).  This year, I’ve had a chance to see all three of them… Yay!

I like the Hult.  I saw Wynton’s brother Branford at the Hult around this time last year.  I like the Hult this week in particular (due to it being a 4 concert week): I like that the show started early (7:30pm), ended on time (9:25pm), and I got home at a reasonable time.  Double Yay!

Wynton and his near-double octet hit the stage after a short introduction.  Wynton was position at the top center of the bandstand and went directly into announcing the first song…

Setlist:

1st set – 40 mins

  • Free for All (Art Blakey) *a fave of night*
  • Peace (Horace Silver)
  • I Like to Take My Time (Mr Rogers)
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Up from Down (Gardner) *a fave of night*

2nd set – 45 mins

  • Weary Blues (sextet band, ragtime tune) *a fave of night*
  • Joe Turner’s Blues (septet, Wynton sang impromptu)
  • Tattooed Bride (Duke Ellington)
  • Portrait of Mahalia Jackson (Duke) *a fave of night*

The first set started off with “Free for All” which had some great solos… sax, trombone and trumpet.  The entire night was filled with some great solos, and “Free for All” kicked it off right.  For the second set we moved to some open seats near the center… right by the very energetic soundman.  He was humorous.  While I dug the first set a lot, the second set was smokin’ hot.  More ragtime and New Orleans street jazz in spots versus the more held back, big band vibe from the first set.  The first two songs of the second set were a stripped down cast (sextet and the septet before the rest of the band re-joined them for the Duke tunes.  I think my favorite tune of the whole night was “Weary Blues, ” which was really hoppin’.  Seem ironic that the entire crowd (of largely white hair) was just idly sitting in their seats. :)

All in all, a great evening of great jazz.

The Appropriate Linkage:

~Dan – np: Fima EphronSoul Machine

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