Recorded after trumpeter Douglas' 50 state tour for his 50th birthday, his quintet with Jon Irabagon (sax), Matt Mitchell (piano), Linda Oh (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) present a set of creatively lyrical compositions and two spirituals honed on the road.
Douglas, Dave Quintet
Label: Greenleaf Music
Released in: USA
"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
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."-Greenleaf Music
• Show Bio for Matt Mitchell
"Matt Mitchell is a pianist and composer interested in the intersections of various strains of acoustic, electric, composed, and improvised new music. He currently composes for and leads several ensembles featuring many of the current foremost musicians and improvisers, including Tim Berne, Kim Cass, Caroline Davis, Kate Gentile, Ben Gerstein, Sylvaine Hélary, Jon Irabagon, Travis Laplante, Ava Mendoza, Miles Okazaki, Ches Smith, Chris Speed, Tyshawn Sorey, Chris Tordini, Anna Webber, Dan Weiss, and Katie Young.
He is an anchor member of several significant creative music ensembles which integrate composed and improvised music, including Tim Berne's Snakeoil, the Dave Douglas Quintet, John Hollenbeck's Large Ensemble, Rudresh Mahanthappa's Bird Calls, Jonathan Finlayson's Sicilian Defense, Dan Weiss's Large Ensemble, Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse, the Darius Jones Quartet, Kate Gentile's Mannequins, Mario Pavone's Blue Dialect Trio, Anna Webber's Simple Trio, Ches Smith's We All Break, Michael Attias' Spun Tree, Ohad Talmor's Grand Ensemble, and Quinsin Nachoff's Flux. He is also among the core performers of John Zorn's Bagatelles.
Musicians with whom he performs and has performed include Jon Irabagon, Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth, John Hollenbeck's Claudia Quintet + 1, JD Allen, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Bunky Green's Apex, Rez Abbasi's Invocation, Lee Konitz, Kenny Wheeler, Ralph Alessi's Baida Quartet, Dave King's Indelicate duo, Amir ElSaffar, Marc Ducret, David Torn, Vernon Reid, Clarence Penn and Penn Station, Linda Oh, Rudy Royston, Allison Miller, Donny McCaslin, Brad Shepik, and Darcy James Argue's Secret Society.
He has taught extensively with the Brooklyn-based School for Improvisational Music, as well as at the New School, NYU, and the Siena Jazz Workshop. He is also a 2015 receipient of a Doris Duke Impact Award and a 2012 recipient of a Pew Fellowship from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage."-Matt Mitchell Website (http://www.mattmitchell.us/bio/)
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• Show Bio for Rudy Royston
A native of Ft. Worth, Texas, Rudy Royston was raised in Denver, Colorado. He began playing drums and percussion as a toddler, playing in church and along with an eclectic array of LPs his siblings would have on rotation. The youngest of five, Royston attributes his musical interests and palate to his siblings and parents. Rudy's older brothers and sister were avid listeners of all genres of music, his mother a constant support, and his father the supervisor of shipping at an established children's percussion instrument making company. Rudy's brothers would expose him to a myriad of music, and his father would bring home slightly damaged percussion instruments. As a result, Rudy grew up surrounded by bongos, rhythm sticks and xylophones, recorders, metallophones, glockenspiels, drums and many other percussion instruments. In the fourth grade, with his mother's ceaseless support, Rudy began studying music more formally, beginning his studies in reading and writing music. He continued his music studies through middle and into high school-receiving some training on viola and tenor saxophone as well.
While a sophomore in high school, Rudy attended the Telluride Jazz Camp in Telluride, Colorado on scholarship, where he studied jazz drum set for the first time with Duffy Jackson and Ed Soph. It was then Rudy knew he would pursue music the rest of his life. He began studying classical and jazz repertoire, as well as marching percussion, rising to achieve membership into topnotch city and state-wide high school ensembles.
Rudy went on to study marching percussion, classical percussion and Jazz Performance at University of Northern Colorado, Metropolitan State College of Denver, and University of Denver. Rudy graduated with honors from University of Denver, where he received Bachelor of Arts degrees in Music and Poetry. He later received K-12 teaching credentials from Metropolitan State College of Denver.
While in college, Rudy began playing with well-regarded trumpeter Ron Miles, whom Rudy deems his greatest teacher and music mentor. Now a major figure in the Denver music scene, Rudy performed with some of Colorado's finest artists such as Fred Fuller, Dale Bruning, Laura Newman, Fred Hess, Dotsero, Leslie Drayton, Joe Keel, Nelson Rangell and Bill Frisell-with whom he still plays.
Upon graduating college, Rudy went on to play and record in the gospel, alternative rock and jazz scenes in Denver and around the United States. He taught music 10 years in public schools before relocating to the east coast in 2006 to pursue graduate studies in music at Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts, studying jazz percussion with the great Victor Lewis. Rudy quickly integrated into the New York music scene, performing with world-renowned artists such as Javon Jackson, Bill Frisell, Les McCann, David Gilmore, Ben Allison, Jason Moran, JD Allen, Sean Jones, Jeremy Pelt, Greg Osby, Jennifer Holiday, Tia Fuller, Ravi Coltrane, Ralph Bowen, Bruce Barth, George Colligan, Don Byron, Stanley Cowell, Tom Harrell, John Ellis, Jenny Scheinman, John Patitucci, Dave Douglas, Branford Marsalis, Rudresh Mahanthappa and The Mingus Big Band, to name a few. A lover of all genres of music, Rudy continues to expand his horizons as he gains increasing recognition in the world of Jazz.-Rudy Royston Website (http://www.rudyroyston.com/html/about.php)
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• Show Bio for Dave Douglas
"Dave Douglas is a prolific trumpeter, composer, educator and entrepreneur from New York City known for the stylistic breadth of his work and for keeping a diverse set of ensembles and projects active simultaneously.
His unique contributions to improvised music have garnered distinguished recognition, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Aaron Copland award, and two GRAMMY® nominations. While his career spans more than 40 recordings as a leader, his active projects include his Quintet; Sound Prints, a quintet co-led with saxophonist Joe Lovano; Riverside, a quartet co-led with Chet Doxas; a duo with pianist Uri Caine; and, debuting in 2015, High Risk, an electronic music-influenced quartet with Mark Guiliana, Jonathan Maron and Shigeto.
Since 2005, Douglas has operated his own record label, Greenleaf Music, releasing his own recordings as well as albums by other artists in the jazz idiom. Through his artist-friendly approach and innovative practices, he continues to prove himself a pioneer among artist-run labels.
Douglas has held several posts as an educator and continues to be very active as a director and programmer. He has been named the Artistic Director for the 2016 season of the Bergamo Jazz Festival, which occurs every year in March. Starting in 2012, Douglas was engaged for two years as International Jazz Artist in Residence at the Royal Academy of Music in London and launched his own Jazz Workshop, dedicated to enriching the musical experiences of younger players. From 2002 to 2012, he served as artistic director of the Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music at The Banff Centre in Canada. He is a co-founder and director of the Festival of New Trumpet Music, which was founded in 2002 to support new music by a diverse community of trumpet and brass players. He also co-hosts, with Michael Bates, a podcast called Noise From the Deep which was named the top jazz podcast by the JazzTimes critics poll in 2014."-Dave Douglas Website (http://www.davedouglas.com/about-dave)
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• Show Bio for Jon Irabagon
"The winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition, Irabagon has since topped both the Rising Star Alto Saxophone and the Rising Star Tenor Saxophone categories in the DownBeat Magazine Critics' Poll and been named one of Time Out New York's 25 New York City Jazz Icons. Jon was also named 2012 Musician of the Year in The New York City Jazz Record and is an integral member of such high-profile ensembles as the Mary Halvorson Quintet, the Dave Douglas Quintet and Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor, as well as an established bandleader in his own right.
For Perpetual Motion, a project of Moondog arrangements, Jon (along with French saxophonist/clarinetist/composer Sylvain Rifflet) has been awarded a French-American Cultural Exchange grant from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, with generous funding from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Florence Gould Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Institut Français, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, and Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs de Musique ("SACEM"). In addition, Jon has received a 2012 Mabuhay Award by the National Association of Filipino-Americans and a 2014 Philippine Presidential Award.
Jon's own record label, Irabbagast Records, has currently released five of his efforts, including I Don't Hear Nothin' but the Blues Volume 2: Appalachian Haze (with Mike Pride and Mick Barr), Outright! Unhinged (with Ralph Alessi, Jacob Sacks, John Hebert and Tom Rainey) and It Takes All Kinds (featuring Mark Helias and Barry Altschul), and most recently, the dual release of Behind the Sky (featuring Tom Harrell, Luis Perdomo, Yasushi Nakamura and Rudy Royston) as well as Jon's first solo saxophone recording, Inaction is an Action."-Jon Irabagon Website (http://www.jonirabagon.com/bio/)
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Label: Greenleaf Music
Catalog ID: GRE-CD-1044
Squidco Product Code: 21253
Recorded at Bunker Studios, in Brooklyn, New York, on February 3rd, 2015 by Aaron Nevezie.
Dave Douglas-trumpet, composer
Jon Irabagon-tenor saxophone
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1. Brazen Heart 7:24
2. Deep River 3:59
3. Hawaiian Punch 7:32
4. Inure Phase 5:38
5. Lone Wolf 2:56
6. Miracle Gro 8:17
7. Ocean Spray 5:24
8. Pyrrhic Apology 7:34
9. There is a Balm in Gilead 6:23
10. Variable Current 4:22
11. Wake Up Claire 5:33