Rise of Orion

Posted by: russell on October 20, 2016 @ 10:19 pm
Filed under: CD/FLAC/MP3, Rudy Royston, store

“A first-tier talent.”

Nate Chinen, The New York Times

In-demand drummer Rudy Royston (Bill Frisell, Dave Douglas, Ravi Coltrane, Branford Marsalis) debuts his new trio on Rise of Orion. Rudy Royston’s sophomore Greenleaf Music album Rise of Orion features a chordless trio with saxophone standout and Thelonious Monk Competition Winner Jon Irabagon, and bass virtuoso Yasushi Nakamura. This 13 track record is Royston’s offering of “hope and love” with 11 originals and interpretations of Bill Withers’ Make a Smile For Me and Henry Purcell’s Dido’s Lament.

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Dada People

Posted by: russell on September 16, 2016 @ 10:00 am
Filed under: CD/FLAC/MP3, Dave Douglas, store

Featuring Matt Brewer and Clarence Penn.

In the years between the two World Wars, the Dada movement questioned, altered, teased and undermined the very idea of art. A century later, trumpeter Dave Douglas and pianist Frank Woeste draw inspiration from that “art of reinvention” with their collaborative album Dada People, due out October 2016 via Greenleaf Music.

Perhaps no single artist embodies Dada’s slippery juxtapositions quite like Man Ray. Both French and American, commercial and avant-garde, Jewish by birth and mysterious by design, Man Ray epitomized the conflicting personae and attitudes that have come to define so much of the modern art world of the last century.  Bridging the Atlantic through support from the French American Jazz Exchange, Douglas and Woeste explore those concepts through a 21st century lens, realized by a stellar quartet rounded out by bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Clarence Penn.

In his liner notes for the album, Douglas calls Man Ray “the ultimate impostor.” Born Emmanuel Radnitzky in Philadelphia to Russian Jewish immigrants, he moved to Paris in 1920, changing his name and effectively erasing his heritage as anti-Semitism was spreading across Europe.  His artwork spanned disciplines, including painting, photography and sculpture, and including “readymades” in the style of Dada founding father Marcel Duchamp – ordinary objects repurposed as works of art.

Bringing together a French pianist and an American trumpeter, Dada People immediately connects Woeste and Douglas to Man Ray’s elusive identities. But they’re also suggested in the ways that the two composers’ music, like Man Ray’s art, fluidly traverses the accessible and the experimental; in the spectrum of possibilities offered by translating visual art through sound.

“Writing music based on visual art is always very subjective and intuitive,” Woeste says. Douglas adds, “The Dada Movement is such an elusive term (like so-called ‘post bop’ or ‘free jazz’) that half the fun of working with various ideas was being able to explore for ourselves and explode some of the manifestos and stances. These were great artists, and as such were mutable and fluid. In that way there is great relevance within improvised music.”

Douglas hails the “spirit of mischievousness, of play, of mystery, and also of the ‘play of identity’ within the work of Ray and his circle,” and immediately engages in that spirit with his own version of a “readymade.” Album opener “Oedipe” makes explicit reference to the work of composer Erik Satie, a contemporary of Man Ray and the Dadaists. It’s followed by the gaslit dance of Woeste’s “Mains Libres,” which takes its title from a book of poetry penned by Paul Éluard to accompany Man Ray’s drawings.

It’s not hard to imagine Man Ray or Marcel Duchamp finding inspiration in the spork, an object that exists as two things simultaneously; Douglas certainly does in his surging tune of that name, which features Woeste on Rhodes. The sultry mystery of the pianist’s “Montparnasse” evokes Man Ray’s muse, Alice Prin, also known as the “Queen of Montparnasse.” Douglas’ “Transparent,” meanwhile, interweaves elegance and abstraction in a way that certainly wouldn’t be alien to the Dadaists.

Woeste offers his own manifesto with the bold “Art of Reinvention,” a notion that he finds particularly compelling as it “reflects on the idea that we can see things in a different light depending on our perspective and also our motivation to see art in things that are not necessarily meant to be art in the first place. As an improviser and as a jazz musician we need to ‘reinvent’ ourselves constantly, reinterpreting and reinventing songs that have been played many times.”

The two composers originally met while Douglas was working on a collaborative project with French-Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf, with whom Woeste regularly works. They kept in touch until the time was right for a collaborative effort. Woeste suggested Man Ray as a source of inspiration, to which Douglas immediately agreed. “Having read about and looked at the Dadaists for years,” the trumpeter says, “I was enthusiastic about making these connections in our music.”

“What I found fascinating in the Dadaist Movement was that it changed our view of what  art is or what art can be,” Woeste explains. “The fact remains that all of these artists had a great freedom in thought and speech and that we as post-surrealists have learned to see the potential of art in daily objects when we set them free from their original function.”

***

Dada People has been made possible through the French-American Jazz Exchange, a joint program of FACE Foundation and Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, with generous funding from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Florence Gould Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Institut Français, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication and Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs de Musique (“SACEM”).

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Touch My Beloved’s Thought

Posted by: russell on May 31, 2016 @ 11:45 pm
Filed under: CD/FLAC/MP3, Greg Ward, store


Charles Mingus’ The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady is one of the most lauded records in jazz history – its lush orchestration, its breadth of territory, its uncompromising integrity and vision all contribute to its enduring allure. Recorded in 1963 with an 11 piece band, the 39 minute, continuous composition was described by Mingus as “ethnic folk-dance music”, as it was originally scored and conceived as a six-part ballet.

In 2014, Roell Schmidt–executive director of the Chicago performing arts center Link’s Hall–heard Black Saint and was floored. Schmidt quickly went to Chicago jazz impresario Mike Reed about the possibility of staging something at Link’s Hall with Mingus’ music and dancers, as the composer had envisioned. Reed’s instincts led him immediately to contact his trusted collaborator of over 13 years, alto saxophonist and composer Greg Ward. Reed asked Ward simply to listen to The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady, a work he had never heard before.

Upon first listen, Ward’s mind began racing – he was enraptured by Mingus’ varied palette of colors, textures and the masterful orchestration that pervades the record. Ward excitedly got back in touch with Reed, who told him that Schmidt had chosen choreographer Onye Ozuzu to collaborate with Ward on this performance’s realization. The piece was pitched by Schmidt and Reed to Jazz Institute of Chicago’s Made In Chicago: World Class Jazz Series, in the summer of 2015. The proposal was accepted and the wheels were set in motion for the project that would eventually become Touch My Beloved’s Thought, which had its premiere on August 13, 2015.

Since his first time writing for dancers 10 years before, Ward’s imagination and his insatiable appetite has continued to grow – in the 10 intervening years, he’s scored music for films, choirs, orchestras and many multi-media works. He notes, “I’ve found that a lot of really beautiful things can come out of me placing myself in uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations.”

Before Ward and Ozuzu began this work they faced a daunting decision: would they do a transcription of The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady, an arrangement of it, or do something completely original? They ultimately decided that the most fitting way to pay tribute to Mingus was to craft an original work which encompassed much of The Black Saint but seen through their modern lens and sensibility.

Ward notes, “I began to dig through Mingus’ composition looking for the elements that stuck out or that were hidden. A lot of big ideas for my composition came from very fleeting moments from his work, which may have gone unnoticed. I kept questioning myself, ‘How would this idea sound today?’ and ‘How would I interpret that sound or feeling?’.” For instance, Ward’s composition “With All Your Sorrow Sing A Song of Jubilance” was taken from a quick piano run that Mingus played and expanded into a whole composition, while “The Menacing Lean” was taken from a fleeting, 4 second passage in Mingus’ trombones which Ward’s ear latched onto; and “Round 3” was inspired by a Major 7th voicing that Mingus used in the low voices during The Black Saint, yet completely re-imagined in a modern context, replete with a hip-hop beat. Touch My Beloved’s Thought’s opener “Daybreak” takes colors, feelings and even its 6/8 tempo from Mingus’ opener, yet borrows other aspects from other forgotten corners of Mingus’ piece. Ward, again like Mingus, interspersed his suite with solo interludes – the piano solo feature appropriately titled “Singular Serenade”; the militaristic trombone battle of “Smash, Push, Pull, Crash” which had dancers holding each other back in a striking visual; and “Grit” which Ward says shows “[his] interpretation of Mingus’ love and interpretation of Duke Ellington’s music.”

Ward and Ozuzu quickly began their intense collaboration by meeting for one week stretches, every month, for 6 months. When not together, Ozuzu would send Ward videos of her improvised dancing to Mingus’ music, which began to reveal the palette that Ward had at its disposal.
For his part, Ward put together a 10 piece band, and like Mingus comprised of some of his longest-standing collaborators and top-shelf Chicago musicians: Tim Haldeman (tenor saxophone), Keefe Jackson (baritone and tenor saxophones), Russ Johnson (trumpet), Ben LaMar (cornet), Norman Palm (trombone), Christopher Davis (bass trombone), Jason Roebke (bass), Dennis Luxion (piano), Marcus Evans (drums). Ward chose them all for their unique voices which he utilized while crafting the piece and who brought it to life.

With Mike Reed’s insistence, Ward knew right before the performance that they were going to make a record of this project. They recorded the live show at Constellation Chicago, and went into the studio the following day. Yet the immediacy of feeling from the live show won out and it is what you hear on the record. Reed and Ward shopped Touch My Beloved’s Thought, around to many labels, but trumpeter Dave Douglas was incredibly enthusiastic about it being released on his imprint Greenleaf Music.

Ward’s striking synthesis of tradition and reverence for Mingus’ work, infused with his thoroughly modern and unique sensibilities give Touch My Beloved’s Thought a wonderment and power that is undeniable.

Reviews of Touch My Beloved’s Thought:

New York City Jazz Review (George Kanzler)
“Ward isn’t just inspired by the earlier work, he’s also created a piece imbued with the Mingus aesthetic, full of such tropes and gestures as dynamic and tempo acceleration; multiple lines creating polyphony; solos building and being supported by growingly insistent, muscular ensemble backgrounds; and the controlled cacophony of ‘free’ group improvisation.”

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Dark Territory

Posted by: russell on March 18, 2016 @ 9:00 am
Filed under: CD/FLAC/MP3, Dave Douglas, LP, store

Featuring Shigeto, Jonathan Maron and Mark Guiliana.

Dark Territory follows up on this area of risk, going into new, as yet unexplored musical spaces. The title was suggested by the writer Fred Kaplan, whose new book Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War, talks about the similarly mysterious, murky waters of underground activity. In a way, we’re playing through a similar territory without rules where the dangers and challenges of technology are much greater than normal. I love that Zach, Jon, and Mark are so willing to go that place!”

Dave Douglas

 

With the 2015 release of High Risk, Dave Douglas, Shigeto, Jonathan Maron, and Mark Guiliana proved they could produce an album where avant-jazz and electronic music met in a spacey atmospheric middle ground, delivering something new in the world of genre. Melding traditional instrumentation and modern electronic music production challenges the ideals of both the traditional term “jazz” as well as the modern term “electronic music.” Pitchfork described it as, “Simultaneously chill and surprising, it’s the sound of a group discovering a valid language, and then proceeding to push the limits of that new aesthetic.”

Dark Territory features a new set of music that was initially released on Limited Edition 12″ 180 Gram vinyl as a Special Release for Record Store Day 2016! The LP and digital audio are available directly from Greenleaf Music via Bandcamp. The CD will be released on July 8. Pre-order on iTunes will begin June 17.

Tracked in the same set of sessions as High Risk, Dark Territory was recorded once again by Geoff Countryman at The Bunker in Brooklyn, NY in October 2014, with mixing by Steve Wall, mastering by Mark Wilder and production by Dave Douglas.

As Douglas notes, “Dark Territory follows up on this area of risk, going into new, as yet unexplored musical spaces. The title was suggested by the writer Fred Kaplan, whose new book Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War, talks about the similarly mysterious, murky waters of underground activity. In a way, we’re playing through a similar territory without rules where the dangers and challenges of technology are much greater than normal. I love that Zach, Jon, and Mark are so willing to go that place!”

The four musicians who make up High Risk come from multifaceted-genre backgrounds. Thus, the jazz/electronic divide is somewhat blurred. PopMatters observed, “Where one influence ends and another one begins is a mystery, and that’s what will guarantee High Risk‘s status as a wholly unique album. With any justice, it will also serve as a template for future electro-jazz.” All About Jazz described the original album, “Voluminous soundscapes and swelling patterns like oceanic waves find Douglas’ blustery and sensitive horn flowing within the band’s shifting and sonically rich program of beats, noises, thoughtful music, and creative embellishments.” Furthermore, Stereophile remarked, “It is a high-wire act, a ‘high risk,’ to be out there, so starkly exposed… there’s a serrated groove to this music, even a lyricism and the blues.”

 

ABOUT SHIGETO

Zachary Saginaw, known under his moniker and middle name Shigeto, was originally a jazz student at The New School. He has since released three full-length albums under noted American electronica hub, Ghostly International (home to Matthew Dear, Gold Panda, Tycho, HTRK, etc.). But he never lost his love for jazz and improvisation, as he explains, “Jazz has always had a place in my life, whether it was my father playing his records for me or just playing tunes with friends. Before I got into production, all I wanted was to be a jazz drummer.”

ABOUT JONATHAN MARON

Bassist Jonathan Maron, who contributes both electric bass guitar and synth (keyboard) bass to the album, was a founding member of Groove Collective and a prominent figure in the fusion-oriented acid jazz movement of the 1990s, when he first crossed paths with Douglas.

ABOUT MARK GUILIANA

Mark Guiliana is one of the most in-demand drummers in the modern jazz scene. His firepower behind the kit is on full, explosive display within this ensemble – but he’s also an inveterate experimentalist who regularly incorporates electronic elements into his own work on projects like Beat Music, Heernt and, perhaps most notably, Mehliana, his genre-defying duo project with Brad Mehldau. His work on Blackstar, David Bowie’s final recording, has brought him much-deserved international attention.

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Tiny Bell Trio

Posted by: russell on March 10, 2016 @ 3:59 pm
Filed under: Dave Douglas, Sheet Music, store

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Physical & digital sheet music books that include a selection of 26 leadsheets and 5 trumpet solo transcriptions from the Tiny Bell Trio. The physical book is printed 2-sided on bleed-proof, high-visibility white paper, housed between a clear plastic cover and vinyl backing, and bound together with a twin loop wire binding for easy page turning.

Transpositions of the lead sheets are available as digital copies for an additional $20. Choose your transposition above!

Lead Sheets

Around the Bend
At Dusk
Bardot
Constelations
Ferrous
Gowanus
Head-On Kouvlodsko
Hope Ring True
If the Cherry Tree Still Stands
Loopy
Maquiladora
Not Thinking Too Good
One Shot
Preprandial
Prolix
Punchy
Red Emma
Road Home
Sam Hill
Scriabin
Shards
Song for My Father in Law
Taking Sides
Uncle Wiggly
Unhooking the Safety Net
Wandering Souls

Trumpet Solo Transcriptions

At Dusk
Constellations
Prolix
Red Emma
Sam Hill

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Azul Infinito

Posted by: russell on March 4, 2016 @ 12:00 am
Filed under: CD/FLAC/MP3, Ryan Keberle, store


Azul Infinito, which features Ryan Keberle’s signature band, Catharsis, includes the vocals of Chilean singer Camila Meza, alongside a frontline of Keberle and GRAMMY-nominated trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, Peruvian-born bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Eric Doob, creates a continuity of sound and aesthetic that could only have resulted from constant playing (often monthly around New York) for the past four years. From this continuity, they breathe as one and express a band aesthetic.

For Keberle, American music’s emotional power, which stems from the blues, is reflected in similarly cathartic afrocentric musical elements found in South American music. Fittingly, Jorge Luis Borges, the noted Argentine writer, called the cathartic act of experiencing art an “evento estético” or “aesthetic event.” As on past records, Keberle’s goal is to allow the listener to feel something through his thoughtful compositions and songs. “I hope this record conveys the influence that South American music has played in my life, and allows listeners to experience their own aesthetic event,” says Keberle. “Each original song on this record is either dedicated to, or directly influenced by, a specific South American composer with whom I’ve had the pleasure to play.”

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Fabliaux

Posted by: russell on December 4, 2015 @ 9:00 am
Filed under: CD/FLAC/MP3, Dave Douglas, store

Buy

Also available on iTunes and Amazon.

Dave Douglas writes a brand new suite for Monash Art Ensemble, an improvising chamber orchestra including some of Melbourne’s finest players.

Scored for four winds, four brass, four strings, and four percussion, including electronics, Fabliaux introduces new language into the vernacular of contemporary improvised music, looking forward while looking back.

Fabliaux draws inspiration from composers of the early 14th century French Ars Nova, most notably Guillaume De Machaut. Using ideas of hocket, isorhythm, and modal counterpoint as points of departure, Fabliaux takes the players on a journey into unimagined territory.

Improvisation mixes with timbre and structure in unexpected ways, with the Australian orchestra meeting the American trumpeter on the fertile ground of exploration and discovery.

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Brazen Heart Live at Jazz Standard

Posted by: russell on November 11, 2015 @ 7:43 pm
Filed under: CD/FLAC/MP3, Dave Douglas, Dave Douglas Quintet, store

Postcard Cover v4

Choose your way to buy:

Bundle of all 4 nights (that’s 8 sets!): $70

Single night (2 sets) Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday: $20

Bundle of all 4 nights + Brazen Heart CD: $80

Subscribe at Level 3: $125/year. Download all 8 sets, plus all the benefits that come with subscription, like exclusive downloadable content, additional discounts and complimentary tickets. Subscriber download available here.

The Dave Douglas Quintet finishes their Brazen Heart tour with a four night run at the Jazz Standard November 19-22. Featuring Jon Irabagon (saxophone), Matt Mitchell (piano), Linda Oh (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums), the group delivers a roller-coaster ride of complex harmonic and rhythmic structures, veering between fierce and soulful.

“Douglas’ quintet … is one of the best working groups in jazz. In recent years, Douglas’ unflagging intellectual curiosity has led to the creation of a diverse body of work…. His quintet, however, represents a creative pinnacle.”

Michael Hamad, Hartford Courant

To capture the quintet’s musical alchemy after extensive touring throughout Europe, Australia and the US, Greenleaf Music is recording all 8 1-hour sets and making them available to you for a bundled price of $70.

Order now  — don’t miss the opportunity to hear this quintet recorded live!

 

Thursday, 7:30
  1. Hawaiian Punch
  2. Miracle Gro
  3. Barbara Allen
  4. Lone Wolf
  5. Going Somewhere With You
  6. There Is A Balm In Gilead
  7. Law of Historical Memory
Thursday, 9:30
  1. Ocean Spray
  2. Time Travel
  3. Pyrrhic Apology
  4. Inure Phase
  5. My Cares Are Down Below / The Pigeon And The Pie
  6. Deep River
Friday, 7:30
  1. Hawaiian Punch
  2. Little Feet
  3. Wake Up Claire
  4. Be Still My Soul
  5. Brazen Heart
  6. Whither Must I Wander?
  7. Beware of Doug
Friday, 9:30
  1. Bridge To Nowhere
  2. Variable Current
  3. This Is My Father’s World
  4. One Morning
  5. Middle March
  6. God Be With You Til We Meet Again
Saturday, 7:30
  1. Hawaiian Punch
  2. Time Travel
  3. Be Still My Soul
  4. Brazen Heart
  5. Whither Must I Wander?
  6. Lone Wolf
Saturday, 9:30
  1. Garden State
  2. Miracle Gro
  3. Barbara Allen
  4. Inure Phase
  5. Little Feet
Sunday, 7:30
  1. Law of Historical Memory
  2. Ocean Spray
  3. This Is My Father’s World
  4. Variable Current
  5. My Cares Are Down Below / The Pigeon And The Pie
  6. There Is A Balm In Gilead
Sunday, 9:30
  1. Bridge to Nowhere
  2. Deep River
  3. Wake Up Claire
  4. Going Somewhere With You
  5. God Be With You Till We Meet Again

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Brazen Heart

Posted by: russell on October 2, 2015 @ 8:05 am
Filed under: CD/FLAC/MP3, Dave Douglas, Dave Douglas Quintet, store

Buy now on Bandcamp

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Featuring Jon Irabagon, Matt Mitchell, Linda Oh and Rudy Royston.

“How do you respond to the tremendous losses that seem to keep coming in this new century? Love. Love, and more love is the only answer. To invest more heart and soul into our project, to bring to bear all the passion and compassion that we can.”

Dave Douglas

Trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas, one of the most prolific and influential jazz musicians of our time, has created “a body of work [that] reflects an inveterate engagement with the world, taking inspiration from literature, politics, dance and film, as well as jazz and new-music traditions,” writes Nate Chinen of The New York Times. But Douglas also draws from deep personal experience to inform his art. In 2012 he honored his late mother, Emily, with the album Be Still, debuting a youthful new quintet. Time Travel followed in 2013, and the quintet ripened further.

With its new album Brazen Heart, on Douglas’ own Greenleaf label, the quintet arrives at a new creative peak, having logged many hours on the road: Douglas and the band set a goal of gigging in all 50 states in honor of Douglas’s 50th birthday in March 2013. Douglas wrote new music for the occasion, and much of it appears on Brazen Heart, in takes that crackle with precision and improvisational depth. With Douglas are tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Rudy Royston — every one a significant bandleader in their own right.

Dave Douglas_2015_Credit_John Abbott_LOW RES

Dave Douglas

While the theme of loss emerges once again — Douglas’s older brother Damon died of cancer in June 2015 — the trumpeter did not intend Brazen Heart as an elegy, in the manner of Be Still. Rather, the new album is an affirmation of love’s power in the face of tragedy, whether personal or global. “It’s a call to arms,” Douglas says. “It takes a lot of bravery to go through these things, and that’s the passion that we put into our art.” Damon was an important figure in Douglas’ professional life: “He gave me my first gig — when I was in 10th grade he had my band come up and play at his college. Later, whenever we were on tour in New England he would help out and drive. He liked to hang out with the band.”

On Brazen Heart the quintet deepens its pursuit of a more polyphonic and through-composed sound, as Douglas commented in the Time Travel liner note, “rather than just taking turns soloing on a form. We want to find something that’s in between soloing and trading and playing together.” With Brazen Heart they’ve surely found it. The subtle interchange of melodic foreground and background roles between Douglas, Irabagon and Mitchell is also highly developed and beautifully executed.

Another factor in the growth of the quintet: Douglas has been spending time with master composer and jazz legend Wayne Shorter. This is a happy outgrowth of Douglas’ work with Joe Lovano in the co-led band Sound Prints, devoted exclusively to new Shorter-inspired and Shorter-penned works. (Linda Oh plays in Sound Prints as well.) “Wayne has said some things that are really profound, and it’s really influenced the way I think about writing for this band, and the way that we play,” Douglas says. “If you listen to Time Travel and this record, you can hear a real difference. I like that idea of progress and change.”

“Brazen Heart,” the title track, was commissioned for the Ecstatic Music Festival — a piece for large brass ensemble to be performed at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan. As Douglas asserts in his liner note to Brazen Heart: “How do you respond to the tremendous losses that seem to keep coming in this new century? Love. Love, and more love is the only answer. To invest more heart and soul into our project, to bring to bear all the passion and compassion that we can.” Underscoring the point, Douglas includes a quote in the liner notes from influential psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl: “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

The two non-originals of the set, “Deep River” and “There Is a Balm in Gilead,” are old spirituals that bring to mind another lost loved one in the jazz world, the great Charlie Haden. “I found my way to them from playing the hymns from Be Still,” Douglas says. “I had also done the Sacred Harp music with Uri Caine on Present Joys. In this band, Linda and Rudy have deep musical connections to the church.” Oh solos plaintively on both the spirituals, with great musicality and touch. “I wanted to find our own way to play these very old pieces,” Douglas adds, “and to me the freshest look was to play them as simply and forthrightly as possible.”

Mitchell is formidable as the first soloist on “Hawaiian Punch,” named for a state in which Douglas did not manage to perform on his 50th anniversary tour. All the material for this tune was written during one of Douglas’ collaborative composing workshops. “It came out like a Monk tune, in the sense that it’s these independent moving voices, no chord symbols. It’s really about how we move around freely through these different obstacles and keep it together. It’s like certain pop tunes I hear that have really complicated structures, and you almost don’t think twice about it.”

Douglas wrote “Variable Current” some years ago but withdrew it after Linda Oh pointed out a fundamental error in Douglas’ notation. “I went to take a lesson with guitarist Rory Stuart, a great rhythm specialist, and he showed me how to approach what I wanted. The basic idea is a tune that’s like an accordion, that expands and contracts. Metrically it keeps notching up and then back down to exactly the same tempo. Every chorus it goes through this transformation. I fixed the tune and it was a learning curve for all of us playing it. Luckily I have band members who can bust me, and keep me on the right track when I bring in new pieces. I rely on them to take this music to the place that we go.”

Both “Miracle Gro” and “Pyrrhic Apology” exist as big band arrangements; the latter gets its title from “the feeling of wanting and needing to apologize for something that you can’t change. When it became clear that my brother wasn’t going to make it, we had several conversations about things that happened when we were kids, and I realized it doesn’t do any good for me to apologize at this point. It’s a pyrrhic apology.”

“Lone Wolf” and “Wake Up Claire” are the technical killers of the set. Douglas remarks: “I wrote a series of tunes where I wanted to get at the crazy intensity of an improvisation we normally get to at the 10- to 12- minute mark, and see if I could take that spontaneous excitement and create it within these shorter forms.” The concise yet complex “Inure Phase” (read: in your face) refers to a Steve Reichian “phase” concept in which “one person is in seven, another in five, another in four, another in three. They’re playing the same line but they gradually fall apart and come back together.”

Douglas, recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Aaron Copland award and two Grammy nominations, has a recorded résumé stretching back to the late 1980s, including more than 40 records as a leader of varied ensembles, with music frequently reaching beyond jazz to draw on classical, folk, Balkan music, Klezmer, free improvisation and electronica. In addition to his work with the Dave Douglas Quintet, his recent Greenleaf releases include High Risk with beat-maker and electronic producer Shigeto; Present Joys, a duo with master pianist (and former Douglas Quintet member) Uri Caine; and Riverside, featuring a quartet co- led with saxophonist Chet Doxas.

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High Risk

Posted by: russell on June 23, 2015 @ 5:00 am
Filed under: CD/FLAC/MP3, Dave Douglas, store


BUY CD, LP and Digital now on Bandcamp

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Featuring Jonathan Maron, Mark Guiliana and Shigeto.

“The biggest element is this meeting of the worlds; an openness and willingness to put everything at risk. I wanted to create a situation where we really were at risk, we were on a high wire, where the exigencies of being in the moment and creating with your wits from one second to the next was what it was about.”

Dave Douglas


The thing we call jazz and the thing we call electronic music are both fundamentally concerned with newness. Each follows its own particular, seemingly mutually exclusive path of discovery and creation, its own process toward realizing something where before there was nothing: on one hand, through the dynamic, unpredictable, in-the-moment spiritual alchemy of improvisation; on the other hand, through a meticulous, creatively probing exploration and inventive interrogation of technology’s constantly evolving potential.

HIGH RISK is all at once a new musical ensemble – a highly collaborative quartet convened by veteran trumpeter, composer and bandleader Dave Douglas; a new record on Douglas’ own Greenleaf Music imprint – a richly evocative opus, rife with intersecting currents of sound and emotion; and a new conceptual endeavor, grappling with the tricky, even treacherous, but fertile intersection of these two similarly motivated but inherently disparate streams.

While it might be tempting to superficially slot the four musicians who comprise High Risk into one or the other side of the jazz/electronic divide, none is exactly a neophyte to this sort of cross-
pollination. Bassist Jonathan Maron, who contributes both electric bass guitar and synth (keyboard) bass to this recording, was, as a founding member of Groove Collective, a prominent figure in the fusion-oriented acid jazz movement of the 1990s, when he and Douglas first crossed paths. Mark Guiliana (with whom Douglas first collaborated on a jointly-led project with saxophonist Donny McCaslin) may be one of the hottest, most in-demand young drummers in the jazz scene. His firepower behind the kit is on full, explosive display here – but he’s also an inveterate experimentalist who regularly incorporates electronic elements into his work with his bands Beat Music, Heernt and, perhaps most notably, Mehliana, his genre-defying duo project with Brad Mehldau.

And though Michigan-based Zachary Saginaw, who records under his middle name, Shigeto, is a producer and beatmaker who has released three full-lengths for noted American electronica hub Ghostly International (home to Matthew Dear, Gold Panda, Tycho, HTRK, etc.), and contributes here in the amorphous, hard-to-define role of “electronics,” he’s also a lifelong lover and student of jazz, which undeniably informs the nuance, fluidity and melodicism of his productions. As Shigeto explains it: Jazz has always had a place in my life, whether it was my father playing his records for me or just playing tunes with friends. Before I got into production, all I wanted was to be a jazz drummer. ”

As for Douglas – whose recorded resumé stretches back to the late 1980s, including more than forty records as a leader of all manner of ensembles, and whose music has frequently reached beyond jazz to draw on classical, folk, Balkan music, Klezmer, avant grade jazz (not least as a member of John Zorn’s influential Masada quartet) and, on numerous occasions, electronic influences – he has a tendency to describe this new project in paradoxical terms. “It’s all composed, and it’s all improvised,” he says. “This is completely different from the processes that go on in my other bands, and at the same time it’s totally the same: a bunch of highly skilled individuals who bring themselves and their personality and their skills to the table, to attack these ideas and materials that I bring into the session.” And, similarly: “I try to surround myself with people who know very well what they’re doing, but at the same time have no idea what they’re doing – and then we try to dig ourselves out of the hole together. Because of the new sonic things going on with High Risk, it was especially thrilling to see everyone’s voice getting integrated into the music moment by moment. Jon, Mark and Zach really went a long way towards creating what is on this record.”

The initial seed for the project was planted last May at a Red Bull Music Academy event at Manhattan’s Town Hall; a live “Round Robin” of overlapping solo and duo improvisations from a wide, interdisciplinary array of musicians including, in this case, Nels Cline, Daedelus, Petra Haden, Allen Toussaint, and Wadada Leo Smith. Douglas was slotted to perform alongside Shigeto, who on this occasion opted to upset expectations and flaunt his jazz roots with a live drum set performance. Backstage, the two struck up a conversation. Shigeto surprised Douglas by telling him he was a fan of his work; the next night, Douglas went to check out a Shigeto gig. And from these initial sparks, the idea of High Risk was born.

Ultimately the balance between the contradictory working methods of jazz and electronic music – the instantaneous, collaborative creativity of improvisation and the lengthy, time-consuming and usually solitary process of production – came with an approach that utilized aspects of each; one that, Douglas says, “respected the process of both sides.” The recordings for the album were made on one single, highly-charged, improvisation-filled day in the studio, but that day was preceded by four careful months of preparatory work – with Douglas writing tunes, sending tracks and samples back and forth, talking to engineers, and deciding how it would all work – and followed by another four months of post- production.

Douglas credits recording engineer Geoff Countryman – a longtime collaborator – and mixing engineer Steve Wall as being pivotal and integral to the ultimate realization of the record, highlighting Wall’s post-production work in particular: “I almost wanted to credit him as a musician… in fact, he is a musician, and what he did was incredibly musical. He brought in a lot of tricky stuff, with samples, keyboards, effects, and even moving sounds around. A lot of it is obvious when you listen to the record, but a lot of it is very subtle. I am very grateful for Steve’s contribution, and that of Geoff in capturing the spontaneous live session. The technology was an important part in bringing all these sounds together.”

The finished product is indeed a highly musical, and highly mutable work – one that defies easy categorization but strikes an immediate and compelling emotional connection. The record traces a loose arc from the calm, meandering, slightly surreal “Molten Sunset” through increasingly dramatic and disjointed sci-fi-delic funk grooves, reaching an apex of sorts with the majestically moody title tune before touching back down on elegantly lush and contemplative album closer “Cardinals,” a fine feature for Maron’s musing bass work. Despite the volatility of this potent confluence of players, and the considerable dynamism each of them brings to the session, there’s a sense of focus and coherence here that sets High Risk apart from the more chaotic, open-ended energy of Douglas’ earlier forays into electronically-enriched jazz, notably 2003’s Freak In and his records with ensemble Keystone, including 2007’s Moonshine and 2010’s Spark of Being.

Comparing it to the other electronic records he’s made over the years, Douglas notes: “I find that every time I dig into a new electronic music project, the technology has changed so much that I almost have to reinvent the process of doing it. That ends up becoming part of the composition process for me.” Similarly, Shigeto describes the innovation that arose from taking an unaccustomed – you might say, risky – approach: “I was afraid I wasn’t going to add anything worthwhile playing with these badass cats! In the end it was great and forced me to work in new ways.”

As Douglas sums up the project: “The biggest element is this meeting of the worlds; an openness and willingness to put everything at risk. I wanted to create a situation where we really were at risk, we were on a high wire, where the exigencies of being in the moment and creating with your wits from one second to the next was what it was about.” High stakes, high reward. High Risk.

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