[JPL] An Expedition That Explores Freedom and Control

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Tue Dec 11 17:56:54 EST 2007

December 6, 2007
Music Review
An Expedition That Explores Freedom and Control 
The kinetic, episodic music of the Dave Douglas
Quintet has plenty of precedent in the broad expanse
of post-bop. Increasingly, though, the group has been
sending signals from its own coordinates. At the
Village Vanguard on Tuesday night it brushed against
facets of modal jazz, nascent fusion and polyphonic
funk — on the surface an index of styles from the
early 1970s — but the mood was neither allusive nor
retro. Mr. Douglas, the trumpeter and composer, led
what felt like an expedition. 

He’s working this week with a modified version of his
well-traveled band, featuring two new members: Orrin
Evans on Fender Rhodes piano and Eric Revis on bass.
Some fresh tunes have entered the rotation, including
a Jerome Kern standard and a topical original called
“Campaign Trail.” Another newly minted piece, “The Law
of Historic Memory,” struck a ruminative note at the
right moment, roughly halfway through the set.
Typically for Mr. Douglas there was a play of weight
and counterweight, freedom and control. 

There was also a hint of schematic sameness to the
arrangements. In most of them Mr. Douglas played a
dartlike melodic line in tandem with the tenor
saxophonist Donny McCaslin, while Mr. Revis tended to
a harmonically static ostinato. But the strenuous
effort of the players — most notably Clarence Penn, an
inexhaustibly creative drummer — gave each piece a
sense of heft and tilt. The tunes, in sequence, felt
like parts of a whole. 

Mr. Douglas has a pointed and plangent tone on his
horn, without actually sounding brassy; it’s the
essence of tension, especially when he bores into a
fast chromatic run. Mr. McCaslin, by contrast, conveys
a laid-back air even as he articulates his notes in a
hard staccato. Their odd-couple rapport was a focal
point of the night, and not just during an
unaccompanied interlude on “Earmarks,” another fairly
new tune. (They were even more impressive charging
headlong through “War Room,” which capped off the

Last year around this time Mr. Douglas recorded a
week’s worth of club performances, releasing the
results online. It was an impressive project not only
for its efficiency — each set was available within 24
hours at musicstem.com, as were individual tracks —
but also for the sure command of the quintet, which
tore through 44 original compositions without apparent

The current band isn’t ready for such a feat. (Mr.
Evans played capably but cautiously, and Mr. Revis
seemed more constrained than inspired by his notated
lines.) But that’s beside the point. Mr. Douglas
recently applied his online resources to another
purpose: His band Keystone just released “Moonshine.”
When the title track cropped up on Tuesday, it sounded
choppier, more effusive, more ferociously unresolved. 

The Dave Douglas Quintet performs through Sunday at
the Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South, West
Village; (212) 255-4037, villagevanguard.com.


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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