Rare Metals.

Posted by: Dave Douglas on July 21, 2011 @ 9:05 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Greenleaf Portable Series (GPS)

Thanks to those of you who have picked up Rare Metals , Volume 1 from the Greenleaf Portable Series. Also thanks to all who have come out to the European shows going on right now and picking up the special flash drive containing both GPS Vols. 1 & 2.

A lot of Rare Metals was written during my residency at the Aaron Copland House. In particular Safeway, which was written as a response to the political violence in Tucson, Arizona which occurred the day I began my residency. Copland himself was constantly speaking to contemporary events and public engagement in his music, and I felt that influence, as well as some of his musical mannerisms, strongly as I composed.

During that month I also found myself engaged in a study of the music of Duke Ellington and as I rolled his music around in my mind this arrangement of Billy Strayhorn’s Lush Life emerged as something that could be potently voiced in brass. I thank the band also for deftly interpreting the re-arrangement.

Town Hall had been written the previous summer during the Tea Party uprisings of the same name. I went to a few of these meetings myself and saw the extremes of both patriotism and intolerance manifest. We live in interesting times.

Thread was written thinking of one of my musical idols, Henry Threadgill. His systems have always intrigued me and on the reissue of some of his great recordings last year I found myself thinking about his work its impact on current practice.

Night Growl was a chance to feature tubist Marcus Rojas, long the heroic purveyor of the vocalistic growl. Here he gets to work out on an unusual sort of blues. Those who have seen photos of my dog, Finley, should know that the initial inspiration lies therein.

And United Front, which I wrote during a tour with Brass Ecstasy, reflects the cohesive spirit and team play that has come define this band. We have a lot of fun playing this one, though this studio version is quite different than the one you’ll find on the album United Front: Live in Newport. Vive la difference.

Next up: GPS Vol. 2 with Ravi Coltrane, Vijay Iyer, Linda Oh, Marcus Gilmore, and myself.


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Record Making With Duke Ellington

Posted by: Jim Tuerk on May 3, 2011 @ 7:09 am
Filed under: Music Technology

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Duke Ellington’s America

Posted by: Dave Douglas on January 11, 2011 @ 9:43 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Music

Isfahan – Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges with Ellington’s band in 1965.

I just finished reading Duke Ellington’s America by Harvey G. Cohen and aside from simply enjoying the story and the context of Ellington’s life, it enriched my love of the music and deepened my awareness of some periods of his work I did not know as well. I recommend it.

I’m still partial to the 60s. The above clip from The Far East Suite shows (unintentionally?) the fraught fifty year relationship between these two masters. And yet the beauty of the performance supersedes any questions as to why Ellington is holding up the music and why Hodges doesn’t seem to want to look at it.

All that harmony! And yet it’s often just single lines or diads — no one is playing the piano. We’ll never know how much or which parts of this music Billy Strayhorn wrote. At least according to Cohen it was a relationship that neither of the collaborators ever discussed with anyone. Does it matter?

20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and even into the 70s with the Sacred Concerts. In a way Ellington offered one of the more radical, and yet most enduring, views of America.


Duke in the Twenties

Posted by: Dave Douglas on November 9, 2010 @ 9:19 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts)

A couple weeks ago I was raving here about the late Ellington Suites. Still kind of mad about Such Sweet Thunder, The New Orleans Suite, The Latin American Suite, The Far East Suite. Others pointed me to their favorites from this period and from the period just before in the mid to late sixties.

The other day I went back to the collection and pulled out the complete recordings from the ‘twenties. It has been a while. Right now I am geeking out on 26/27/28. Such great music — the ensemble playing, the crazy arrangements, the hilariously loony vocals, the banjo as chordal percussionist, the bass player doubling on tuba. Also when you think that these recordings for the most part were made with one microphone it’s kind of astounding.

Now I see where Mosaic is going to be releasing the Complete — No, I mean Really Complete — 1930’s Ellington Orchestra. Yes, I’ll look forward to that. It’ll be a post-tour treat.


We Love Late Ellington Suites Madly.

Posted by: Dave Douglas on October 18, 2010 @ 8:34 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts)

In Stanford this past summer one of their friendly drivers had Duke Ellington’s Latin American Suite in his disc player. I started to really look forward to those rides…

Photo: Roberto Polillo

The late sixties/early seventies suites like The Queen’s Suite, the UWIS Suite, The Goutelas Suite were always among my favorites. I covered from the UWIS Suite on my first recording, Parallel Worlds. They’re very different than the 20’s, 30’s, 40′ or 50’s Ellington. Billy Strayhorn must also get a nod for the richness and complexity, as well as the down to earth quality of the band’s playing.

After my summer driving experience I pulled out some of the other late suites and they have just been flooring me (again). New Orleans Suite, Suite Thursday, Latin American Suite — there’s some crazy stuff in there. The length and breadth of Ellington’s career is just astounding.