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Dave Douglas is not your typical iconoclast. The progressive trumpetera mainstay of John Zorn's Masada and more typically avant-garde groupsfavors an understated upheaval in his efforts as a leader, courting, in the words of writer Andy Battaglia "tradition and progression without puzzling over the difference." On Moonshine, his second album with Keystone, a sextet featuring Marcus Strickland (saxophone), Adam Benjamin (Fender Rhodes), Brad Jones (bass), Gene Lake (drums) and DJ Olive (turntables and laptop), Douglas once again focuses his modernist vision through the lens of silent-era cinema. The resulting work is a striking amalgam of improvisation and compositional effects, recalling, in the trumpeter's words, "the bounce and bubble of characters [who] begged for a beat."
Douglas makes clear in the liner notes that Moonshine is more a reflection on the "great forgotten absurdities" of the work of Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton than a soundtrack in the traditional sense. The trumpeter and Keystone draw on a wide array of material throughout Moonshine's eight tracksfrom snippets of Charlie Parker's "Ko Ko" in the free- associative "Married Life" to a stuttering sample of George W. Bush on the expansive "Flood Plane" that is a surprising, but perfect counterpoint to Douglas' gorgeous trumpet linesbut never in a way that takes them out of the improvised moment. "There were nights playing the music from Keystone [the band's first album that was also inspired by Arbuckle's work] that I wanted to pause the film and let the music wander off on a tangent," reflects Douglas in the notes and he gets his wish here. The sextet moves from the pulsating fusion groove of the title track to "Flood Plane"'s ethereal vibe and the all-out rock of "Kitten" with a gracefulness that few groups could muster.
DJ Olive is the catalyst behind many of the album's seamless transitions and a force of cohesion throughout. Whether supplying a refracted drum beat introduction to the title track, sampling vocals on "Flood Plane" or adding a new dimension to the fray on "Kitten," his understated contributions complement the often-sparring horns, adding a thickness to the overall groove of Benjamin, Jones, and Lake and inspiring memorable solos from Douglas and the fiercely emotive Strickland.
Track Listing: Dog Star; Moonshine; Married Life; Silent Stars; Scopes; Flood Plane; Kitten; Tough.
Personnel: Dave Douglas: trumpet; Marcus Strickland: saxophones; DJ Olive: turntables and laptop; Adam Benjamin; Fender Rhodes; Brad Jones: bass; Gene Lake: drums.