Along with The Bad Plus and Matthew Shipp, Dave Douglas is arguably one of the most high-profile of the Nu Jazz musicians whose appeal has crossed over into indie rock and (gasp!) pop territory. Besides releasing nearly 30 recordings since 1993, leading at least a half dozen different bands while managing find time to snap up a Guggenheim Fellowship and start his own label Greenleaf Music, the two-time Grammy-nominated trumpeter also been one of the most outspoken, chiming in online about subjects as varying as his favorite solo trumpet recordings, the possibilities of jazz in the digital age, and even the role of government in funding the arts.
But he’s also drawn flak for mouthing off Bill Maher-style about a whole range of subjects that Jazz Musicians Shouldn’t Talk About: criticizing the policy of American government in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia and Bush’s prosecution of the War on Terror—often from the stage at his own performances. "Inevitably, it slips out," he told writer Doug Fischer last May. "I try to make a point of saying something about the world during every show. Some of my music is inspired by injustices so I think it is right and relevant that I talk about these things that are on my mind."
Sure enough, there is a Bush-bashing tune on Spirit Moves, Douglas’ debut CD with his new quintet Brass Ecstasy – the gleefully perverse New Orleans funeral sendoff “Twilight of the Dog.” Douglas’, ah, articulations mirror the outspoken qualities of one of his greatest influences, the late Art Ensemble of Chicago trumpeter Lester Bowie, whose nonet Brass Fantasy mixed an encyclopedic knowledge of pop, New Orleans jazz, funk, military music, bebop, soul, bebop and the avant-garde with a jump-cut ferocity. “To me, [he] represented the idea that many musics can coexist,” Douglas wrote in the album’s liner notes. “He did not choose between the many musics and musicians that interested and inspired him. He did not choose between so-called 'high' and 'low' forms. Lester spent years building a personal sound and approach to music. He then applied it to many areas of music, and his spirit celebrated the spirit of pure music. He did it with dignity, humor, and grace.”
Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy perform “Bowie”
Although Bowie’s spirit does move in many ways through Brass Ecstasy’s music -- particularly in its inventive and skewed choices of pop cover songs and its employ of two of Bowie’s ex-sidemen, French horn player Vincent Chancey and trombonist Luis Bonilla -- Douglas uses unusual instrumentation (only drums and brass) to pay tribute to a much wider palette of his trumpet influences (Enrico Rava, Fats Navarro, Don Cherry, Woody Shaw) and, in the words of the Chicago Reader’s Peter Margasak, “reaffirm his commitment to an ensemble-oriented style of jazz that privileges carefully assembled arrangements over individual showboating.”
Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy essay Rufus Wainwright's “This Love Affair”
Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy: "Great Awakening"
Douglas achieved this effect in part by recording the band in a single room. “For this project, the instrumentation creates an uncommon environment.,” drummer Nasheet Waits told Downbeat's John Ephland. “The way we recorded was pleasurable. There was no separation. This transmits an organic feeling, one where you’re responding to the true sound of the instrument in real time.”
Brass Ecstasy has currently been honing its fearsome live chops on an extedned tour that's wrapping up this week in California. Reviewing last Thursday night show at Yoshi's in Oakland, Jazz Observer gave us all a taste of what we can expect from this quintet when they hit Angel City tonight: “Much like Bowie’s group, Douglas’s bold, dexterous quintet — four horns plus drums — posesses virtuoso chops but doesn’t take itself too seriously. Digging into earthy grooves or dropping into overt humor without warning, they keep the audience and each other on their toes. But there is always the sense of deeper layers under the surface.”
And let's hope Dave is feeling feisty!
Interview with Dave Douglas
Review of Spirit Moves from SF Gate
Review of Spirit Moves from Time Out-Chicago
Dave Douglas concert review from The Onion A.V.
“Dave Douglas: Music. Commerce and Culture Wars” (Paul Olsen, All About Jazz, 6/26/06)
“Dave Douglas: Keeping His Eye on the Ball” (Tom Greenland, All About Jazz, 9/14/06)
“A Fireside Chat with Dave Douglas I” (Fred Jung, AAJ, 4/19/03)
“A Fireside Chat with Dave Douglas II” (Fred Jung, AAJ, 2/25/04)
AAJ’s John Kelman reviews Spirit Moves
Blogcritics review of Spirit Moves (6/18//09)
New Musical Resources's Peter Gillette reviews Spirit Moves
Washington Post's Mike Joyce review of Spirit Moves
Boston Phoenix's John Garelick reviews Spirit Moves
Interview with Dave Douglas on Jazz News
Dave Douglas profile/interview on NPR
“Dave Douglas: The Creative Imperative” (SCENA Jazz, 1/30/09):
VERY RECENT! Review of Brass Ecstasy show at Yoshi’s (Jazz Observer, 9/02/09)
Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy: excerpt from Icons Among Us documentary
Ottawa Citizen profile of Dave Douglas (6/23/09)
Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy: NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert
Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy: “The View from Blue Mountain”
Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy at the Willisau Jazz Festival (2007)