Hard Choices and Non-American Football

Posted by: Dave Douglas on June 30, 2014 @ 7:04 pm
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts)

The World Cup is such a kick every time it comes around. (Yes, that pun deserves a yellow card, I will be more careful). Wonderfully international and egalitarian as it is, watching the latest matches has me thinking through some tough choices. And noticing some of the madness around it.

Speaking of hard choices, by now you’ve most likely seen the recent meme about the trolley problem:

There’s a runaway train barreling down the tracks. You see five people tied up ahead, unable to move. The train’s headed straight for them. Miraculously, there’s a lever next to you which will switch the train to a different track. Tragically, you notice there’s also one person tied up on the other track. There’s no intermediate switch, the train can only go on one track or another. Do nothing, and the train kills five people. Or do you pull the lever, saving five, but killing one? Tough choice. Most people quickly choose #2 — doing less harm.

Here is “The Trolley Song” to listen to while you read the rest. Since we’re talking about Brazil, thank you, Joao Gilberto.

There’s a variation on this enigma called The Fat Man:

As above, the train is hurtling down a track towards five people. This time you are on a bridge overhead, and you can stop the train by dropping a heavy weight in front of it! Also, there’s a very fat man next to you. Your only way to stop the train is to push the fat man over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed?

Yikes. Most people pause here because you actually have to actively cause harm this time to stop a worse outcome. What would you do? There is no right answer.

Luckily this is all hypothetical. This is not like having to choose between the Village Vanguard and The Stone, where there are two great bands you’d like to hear. Choosing one means missing the other. Or hearing one your all time heroes at an overseas jazz festival versus going back to the hotel to get a good night of sleep before tomorrow’s early wake up call and travel to the next gig. This happens to me at least five times per summer.

If you’ve been watching the World Cup, like it or not you’ve had to make some difficult choices. This has nothing to do with the chauvinism of Ann Coulter (or with Hillary Clinton’s memoir, “Hard Choices.”). Coulter said, ”I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer.” My family’s been here a long, long time and we’re all freaking out over the Brazil games. My friend Marc Ribot responded by saying:

Most of the Americans I know whose great grandfathers were born here are Black. Most of my African American friends certainly seem interested in soccer. But somehow I don’t think they were who Coulter had in mind.  I don’t know many whites whose great grandfathers were born here. Of the ones I do know know, some seem to like watching soccer. Are my friends representative? I don’t know. But that begs the questions:  Why exactly would anyone care what a dwindling minority of politically marginal white American non-soccer watchers does or thinks? And who still believes Ann Coulter’s ‘promises’?

No, the choice is whether to simply appreciate the awesome skills and brilliant teamwork of the sport, as opposed to honoring the suffering and displacement caused by the games (by boycotting and protesting them).

Billions of dollars are spent on stadiums that may never get used again. These billions get spent in a country of rampant poverty and inequality–in the favelas people could really use the money. In addition, there are preferential contracts for FIFA that eliminate any leverage for workers and displaced families. Yikes indeed.

And yet, it’s a remarkable year for the sport. The USA has a viable team this time around and has joined the group of 16. It’s hard not to be enthusiastic for Tim Howard and the squad. There have been thrilling matches. South and Central America have been dominant this year. Epic battles have eliminated big traditional giants. It’s like a hundred degrees and 95% humidity and these guys run for ninety minutes straight. Amazing.

So, what to do? (If you’re England, go home, apparently. Sorry, Nick).

It’s one of those moments where you have to hold two competing thoughts in your mind. The matches are good, the message is good. The management is exploitative, the money corrupts, inequality abounds. How much is my decision to patronize the games complicit in the problems? Who knows? Maybe not at all.

I’m a musician, lucky with the kinds of choices I get to make. If you could keep the trolley from hitting anybody, that’d be good, right? You could catch the first set at The Stone and the second set at the Vanguard. Hear Sonny Rollins and then hope to take a nap tomorrow afternoon before the gig.

Tuesday we’ll find out whether our team can vanquish Belgium. I’ll be rooting for USA, but I also love Belgium, and I am grateful our team has come even this far.

And we can all hope some good comes out of this for Brazil and Brazilians.


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Remembering Roy Campbell Jr.

Posted by: Dave Douglas on March 21, 2014 @ 9:12 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts)

Roy Campbell Jr

Roy and I were playing in rival street bands in New York when I met him in 1984. He was about 10 years older than me. The way it worked was that someone would come down early to stake out the best spots: City Hall, Times Square, Astor Place, the Plaza. So Roy and I were from opposing teams and yet Roy was the first trumpeter I met and befriended in the city. He was one of the most enduring and loyal of colleagues; our paths crossed many times, in many ways.

Roy was a majestic player. His range and creativity were always a marvel in ways both technical and emotional. But the thing he had that was so special was that inner fire. You’d see him about to go into the music with his horn and he’d get that sparkle in his eye, that little smile. It was a look that told you this guy knew what he was there for and was ready to go get it. Look out!

Click here to read the rest of the story over at JazzTimes.


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Boulder Blog

Posted by: Dave Douglas on March 5, 2014 @ 1:30 pm
Filed under: Dave Douglas, Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts)

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John Gunther is creating a fantastic music program out at University of Colorado at Boulder. Trumpeter Brad Goode is there, too. Amazing player! I just had the opportunity to spend a week with all of them and was mesmerized by the creative energy and commitment going on on campus. I am enthusiastic about these great young players. Also got to meet and play with wonderful pianist and composer Art Lande, a real hero of American music.

We talked music: who’s listening to what, how to find new music, both one’s own and that of others. Also, is there any particular importance in playing music that is “new?” What do we mean when we use the word “authentic?” Interesting to think about and reexamine answers to these queries. How does learning the musical past impact the practice of one’s own music? I always feel that every individual answer to this is valid.

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Dave Douglas Workshop at Jazz Education Network (JEN) Saturday January 11

Posted by: Dave Douglas on January 10, 2014 @ 9:44 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Dave Douglas (News), Events, Workshop

556700_10151318143781206_1342787754_na Join me at Jazz Education Network conference in Dallas, Texas on Saturday, January 11th. In addition to coaching, I will be performing at noon with the BYU Synthesis band on the Inspirations stage.

At 4pm in the Pegasus room I am sharing a hands-on composition workshop. Bring a pencil and manuscript paper as we go through some ideas about generating material and overcoming writer’s block. Members of the BYU band will be playing and writing, then demonstrating some of the ideas that emerge. Should be fun and enlightening. Come say hello if you are down there!


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Greenleaf Artists Sound Off: Year End Observations & Music Thoughts

Year end thoughts from Dave Douglas, Grammy nominee Donny McCaslin, Michael Bates, Linda Oh, Kneebody, Matt Ulery

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Dave Douglas

Henry Brant would be 100! After co-producing his 52 trumpet piece with Festival of New Trumpet Music, I discovered his book called “Textures and Timbres: An Orchestrator’s Handbook.” It is extraordinary, a great insight into what made that music so powerful. I will spend another 50 years trying to digest it. It’s still in print, and worth looking up.

Wayne Shorter turned 80. John Zorn turned 60. I turned 50. Joe Lovano and I were honored to have a small role in the Wayne Shorter events, playing with our quintet, Sound Prints, with Lawrence Fields, Linda Oh, and Joey Baron, at several celebrations. The Zorn at 60 marathons were some of the most inspiring days of music I have ever seen; definitely like playing on an all-star team. And traveling with my own quintet, with Jon Irabagon, Matt Mitchell, Linda Oh, and Rudy Royston, has been one of the most challenging and fulfilling musical experiences of my life. It is a profound pleasure developing the music with these good people. We still have about 15 states to go and I look forward to working on that! Stay warm and we will hope to see you in Hawaii in the cold season.

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Like:
Miguel Zenon, Oye, Live in Puerto Rico
Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense, Moment & The Message
Mauro Ottolini Sousaphonix, Bix Factor

(more…)


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DDQ in the Southeast.

Posted by: Dave Douglas on October 11, 2013 @ 9:50 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Dave Douglas (News), Events

dd50_logo1-optSome thanks are in order. One of the most inspiring parts of the US tour has been meeting the people along the way. People who make musical events possible in their cities, towns, and regions are really crucial to the opening up of possibility around the country. We’ve been blessed to meet up with some fantastic supporters of the arts in our 50 state travels.

In Louisville, Kentucky, John Harris at the Clifton Center is presenting a diverse set of musical events and we were thrilled to be a part of it. Also, Mike Tracy at University of Louisville was instrumental in making the workshops and presentations happen.

In Knoxville, Tennessee we were hosted by my old friend Greg Tardy, saxophonist, who, along with Vance Thompson, Donald Brown and others is leading an outstanding program at UT. I had a blast playing with Greg again. At the same time we were hosted by Ashley Capps and the Square Room for our acoustic set in front of an electric audience.

The next day was a workshop in Asheville, North Carolina and a concert in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Thanks to Brian Felix and Bob Hinkle for making this happen. Also a big thank you to Greenleaf’s own Jim Tuerk (no, it is not pronounced ‘Twerk’, much as we would enjoy that) for driving us and bringing box sets and vinyl LPs to all our shows.

Britt Theurer has a great program at East Carolina and I was grateful for the invitation to speak to his brass students in Greenville, North Carolina.

Finally for this run, Matt White, trumpeter and producer at Coastal Carolina University near Myrtle Beach, brought us to South Carolina for an awesome show at Wheelwright Auditorium. Matt is making great things happen there and you can check out his new record at this link.

On the way home I stopped in Richmond, Virginia to reunite with trumpeters Rex Richardson and Taylor Barnett and play material for three trumpets and rhythm section. Thanks to Antonio Garcia for inviting me to his program at VCU and making this special concert possible. There was a post concert visit to McCormack’s Whiskey Grill along with Reggie Pace, Bryan Hooten and other members of NO BS! Brass, not soon to be forgotten!

And, yes, I am training for a marathon again and running in every city we visited so far. Loving that Rail Trails seem to be springing up all over the country. We’re back on the west coast now and the Pacific vistas are impeccable. Today in Oakland, California; tomorrow Portland, Oregon; Saturday, Seattle, Washington, and then we will be in Europe for a couple of weeks. Hope to see you out there. Dave


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Festival Of New Trumpet Music Preview: Q&A with Dave Douglas

Posted by: jim on September 3, 2013 @ 12:39 pm
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Dave Douglas (Updates), Events

Our head honcho sat down with Fully Altered Media for a Q&A in advance of the Festival of New Trumpet music later this month. Mark you calendar for September 23rd for a performance with Dave Douglas Sextet at St. Peter’s Church. More event listings at the FONT site.

Dave-Douglas

Q: How did you become a trumpet player? Did you play other instruments before the trumpet?

DD: Even though trumpet was one of my earliest instruments after piano and trombone, I always naturally thought of myself as a musician. It didn’t occur to me that I was a trumpet player until it was way too late, which is one of the reasons for this festival. It’s to celebrate the trumpet as a piece of equipment in the hands of musicians of every variety, to counter the idea of the trumpeter as a music jock, a sort of athlete of the high notes and proponent of the showiest, brassiest sounds regardless of what the music calls for. We celebrate the Music first. Then the Trumpet, then the New. This is a Festival for music and musicians involved in some of the most compelling, expressive, protean, challenging, and fun music around.

Q: Were there recordings in the beginning and even years into learning the instrument that drew you into the trumpet’s sound and possibilities?

DD: When I finally realized and accepted that I was a trumpeter I was drawn to unique sounding players like Miles Davis, Thad Jones, Lester Bowie, Woody Shaw, Herb Robertson, and of course all the other giant spirits of jazz. I also listened to great classical players like Gerard Schwarz and Raymond Mase, more recently Alison Balsam and Hakan Hardenberger. But I am really a sucker for Macedonian and Mexican brass bands. When the trumpet itself makes people dance how can you not smile?

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Dave Douglas: There’s Wisdom Everywhere in the Universe (via AllAboutJazz)

Posted by: jim on June 18, 2013 @ 1:38 pm
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Dave Douglas (News), Press

Along with a thoughtful synopsis of Dave’s last year — the two album releases Be Still and Time Travel, the 50 States tour, plus all the other projects he has going — AllAboutJazz published a lengthy and interesting interview with AAJ’s Dave Wayne titled “There’s Wisdom Everywhere in the Universe.”

Below is in excerpt from the conversation, this piece revolving around Be Still. So much more good stuff over there. We encourage you to read it in full.

Published: June 17, 2013 by DAVE WAYNE

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AAJ: Be Still is so directly emotional, but the really beautiful thing about that record was that every one of the players—Aoife especially—was able to be totally themselves even though the music seemed to exist between two separate worlds that don’t usually intersect. But you got into something really profound there…

DD: It’s not a pose that we’re playing these hymns. We’re not proselytizing for a religion, but we’re not avoiding the spiritual content of the music. We’re not taking an ironic stance, either. Like I said before, we’re not posing with this music. The verses that we sang, and some of the verses that Aoife adapted, were all chosen by my mom. That’s what she wanted us to play at her service. She chose them. And they’re all these universal spiritual tunes that are very uplifting. People have come up to me to tell me that this record got them through some difficult times.

The other thing that people say is “I’m so sorry about your mom.” And that’s nice, but it’s not that sort of album either. It’s not elegiac or sorrowful at all. It’s uplifting. The message that my mom came to, in the end, was “Now I’m moving on to a different place, and I’ll see you there.” It was not “I am going to miss you so much.” It was more along the lines of “This is great, let’s have a celebration, just like we did when you were born.” And that’s reflected in the songs she chose for us to play. It was very, very powerful. And I definitely shed some tears during the making of this record, but they weren’t tears of sorrow… they were tears of joy.

AAJ: Well that was quite palpable in the music. I’ve got to thank you for making that record.

DD: Well, thank you. I’m very proud of it. And now it’s being issued as an LP on heavyweight vinyl, and it sounds incredibly gorgeous. The whole package is really beautiful, with the artwork and all. I see Time Travel as a companion piece. It’s the same musicians, but we’re playing original music and taking it in different directions.

There’s one more thing I’d like to mention about Aoife. You’ll notice that a lot of the contexts in which she has to sing are quite harmonically challenging and rich. And some of her entrances are really, really difficult. You really have to know what’s going on to come in with a vocal entrance on a very interesting note [laughs] in the middle of a musical phrase with Matt Mitchell improvising all these wild harmonies all around you. She really hung with us on the highest musical level. It wasn’t like we were bringing a “singer” into the band. It was like having another musician in the band. And we’ve done a bunch of live shows with her and she’s constantly operating at the highest musical level.


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More from the mailbox: Not knowing what to practice.

Posted by: Dave Douglas on May 2, 2013 @ 9:20 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Education, Workshop

Thanks to all for writing and for your questions and thoughts. Always appreciated. For this recent one, I am going to paraphrase the question:

“Dave, I’m having trouble knowing what to practice. I feel like I am working a lot but not moving forward, and I’m a little frustrated at not knowing where to look for inspiration in my practicing and playing. Help.”

I have a few thoughts about what you’ve said. I broke them up into a few avenues of inquiry that you might find helpful.

First: Presence. A part of any activity in the arts is like meditation or simple awareness, depending on how you look at it. The meditative mind is a huge part of the practice of practice. Notice what’s going on around you and inside you. I’m reading a book right now called Rebel Buddha, which I wholeheartedly recommend. I am not a Buddhist (last year I actually reaffirmed my identity as a Christian, just… not the kind that believes in killing people… oof!). I feel like some quiet sitting and focus might sharpen your musical instincts. Add that as part of your eight hour day. Lots of manuals are available if you look. You probably already have at least one in your house. This is a way of focussing your presence so you can be more aware of what you are working on.

Second: Absence. Music is a subtle devil. So much of the power is in things we never think about or talk about. The power of absence in music — a quick concrete example is when you release a note as opposed to when you attack it. Your release creates an absence and is almost half the power of the note itself. Think about where and how your notes end. Think about how the silences in your rhythm make the music stronger. Think about how the wake of your notes makes the metronome swing.

Third: Tone. Profound element and how often do we work on that? Sit around playing long tones and tinkering, in a microscopic way, with the sound of the one note. Vibrato, dynamics, timbre, harmonics, articulation, smears, multi-phonics, growling, etc. all found in holding that one note. Listen to Billie Holiday and think about how many different ways (and how expressively!) she sings the same note every time it comes around. In some ways I feel like this is the development of taste, in a good way. When you get on the stage you want every note to be beautiful and powerful. Loaded with meaning.

Glad we talked.


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Dave Douglas interview for Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2013

Posted by: Dave Douglas on April 30, 2013 @ 10:38 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Dave Douglas (News), Video

Got a chance to chat with one of my longest term supporters and biggest champions of jazz in the UK, Tony Dudley-Evans. We spoke about this weekend’s Cheltenham Festival in the lounge of the Royal Academy.


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