Dave Douglas – Three Views: Greenleaf Portable Series Vol. 1-3

January 01, 1970

(Greenleaf)

 

www.greenleafmusic.com

 

Trumpeter
Dave Douglas’ career has been as diverse as it has been prolific: incorporating
a hard bop apprenticeship with Horace Silver; work with John Zorn in the Masada quartet; and more eclectic original projects like
the Tiny Bell Trio and his more electric bands. He launched the Greenleaf
imprint seven years ago as a way to avoid the middleman in the distribution of
original jazz, thus dodging the whole collapse of the record label as we know
it. This year, he introduced the Greenleaf Portable Series, a set of albums by
three different Douglas units, all of which
have been within a few months of the sessions. The individual sets began
dropping over the summer, with volume three coming out in mid-October. While
they can be purchased individually, Greenleaf is now offering a limited edition
box of all three, title Three Views. In
addition to the diversity of each set, Douglas
was savvy enough to keep each release to, on average, 45 minutes – thus
treating like an album. (Their press release calls them EPs, which makes sense
considering the average length of a jazz album these days.)

 

Rare Metals features his Brass Ecstasy group, a quintet of horns and trap kit.  His skill at writing for such a group comes
out within the opening minutes. “Town Hall” combines the tonal color of a New Orleans marching band
mashing the spiritual “Abide with Me” with the phrase of a Mozart piano sonata
that Raymond Scott and Carl Stalling later appropriated for Warner Brothers
cartoons. Before the piece has ended, drummer Nasheet Waits shifts from press
rolls to a groovy 4/4, which supports Vincent Chancey’s French horn solo. All
horns eventually get their solo space, including Marcus Rojas (tuba), and the
lack of strings or sustained chords never becomes an issue. Billy Strayhorn’s
“Lush Life” can pose a challenge for any type of blowing session, and Douglas succeeds with an arrangement that seems to
co-mingle the song’s melody and improvisations by the band.

 

Orange Afternoons, the
second in the Portable Series, reads the most like a supergroup. Douglas has brought together pianist Vijay Iyer, drummer
Marcus Gilmore (also in Iyer’s trio), tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and
bassist Linda Oh. All of them are high profile on their own, but they mesh well
as a unit on six tracks that sound like a ’60s Miles Davis session, if they
were playing Wayne Shorter’s elusive melodies exclusively. Douglas and Coltrane
regularly take surprising turns in their solos. The 11-plus minute “Orologi”
offers some of the best moments, with Coltrane, Iyer and Oh toying with
dynamics in their solos.

 

As
strong as the second volume sounds, it rivals Volume 3, Bad Mango, for the most absorbing listen. Douglas teamed up with New York quartet So
Percussion to revisit a few of his early solo and Tiny Bell pieces, along with
some new tracks. The session includes some additional melodic elements, which
sound like samplers or electric drums that trigger pitches, but it largely
features the bright trumpet joining forces with all manner of percussive
clatter. The quartet generates excitement with some loud thwacks, again making
it unnecessary for any other standard rhythm section instruments. Each track
features a different adventure, among them: the musique concrete of “Nome”
where the trumpet melts into vibes as disembodied voices
mumble in the background, followed by “Witness” which begins with an accordion
(or a reasonable facsimile) pumping out a slow melody before it switches to a
drone and the layers of marimba, drums and rims cue Douglas’ folky melody.

 

Douglas
already has a fourth group waiting in the wings, so who knows how long it will
be before Greenleaf presents their volume as part of this series.

 

DOWNLOAD: Rare Metals: “Town Hall,” “Thread.” Orange Afternoons: “The Gulf,” “Orologi.” Bad Mango“: “Witness,” “Spider.” MIKE SHANLEY

Leave a Reply