Take Dave Douglas's Magic Triangle and Leap of Faith quartet, swap Ben Perowsky for Clarence Penn on drums, keep Chris Potter on tenor and James Genus on bass, and add Uri Caine on Fender Rhodes. What have we got? The new Dave Douglas Quintet, which the chameleonic trumpeter/composer featured during his second engagement at the renowned Village Vanguard. Little is known about this new grouping. The music was brand new, so much so that Douglas felt compelled to thank the band effusively for learning it all that week. No song titles were announced, nor were there any mutterings about an album in the works.
The addition of Caine's Rhodes gave the music a feel strongly reminiscent of late 60s Miles, along the lines of Water Babies or Miles In the Sky. But each tune bore Douglas's unmistakable, ultramodern fingerprints. Genus and Penn were like a rhythmic tsunami, but Douglas rode the waves, his horn sounding chipper during the last set of the last night of the week. And Potter never sounded better. The top-flight tenor man works with so many people that he can seem to be coasting sometimes, but this group prompted him to spill forth lines and ideas that overwhelmed the senses. Caine's bell-like tones and thick harmonies were the real magic touch, however. Rhodes is less of a rarity these days; a giant like Uri Caine makes the thing sound heavenly.
Douglas has found a way to make modern, creative music and also swing really hard, refusing to choose between the tradition and the avant-garde. For the most part he's done this by writing lots of material for lots of different bands. With this new quintet he has synthesized his musical agendas with a high degree of focus and efficacy.
The quintet's next New York appearance will be at Symphony Space, as part of the "Wall to Wall Miles Davis" noon-to-midnight marathon, free and open to the public, on March 24. Antonio Hart will sub for Chris Potter, and the band will hit during the 4pm-6pm segment.
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