Dave Douglas: A Single Sky (2009)
Here is yet another facet of Dave Douglas, an artist who is constantly seeking fresh discoveries. This album benefits from the full forces of the Frankfurt Radio Big Band (FRB), brashly realizing the composer's large lyricism. Douglas now turns his auteur skills to writing inflated-scale compositions, although his own soloing role is not diminished. His features are frequently the kernel of the operation.
The FRB are conducted and arranged by Jim McNeely and the most familiar player in their ranks is tenor man (and flutist) Tony Lakatos. Three of the works included here are part of 2008's "Delighted States" suite and the remaining four are expansions of pre-existing smaller ensemble pieces.
"The Presidents" makes an epic fanfare announcement, with Douglas making smeared vocalizations and streaked soaring statements, as the band goads harder and higher in their glossy blaring. It's a suitably stately tune, but such dignified pomp is immediately followed by the supernatural tingle of "Bury Me Standing," which is probably not concerned with zombies, but does feature an initial brooding starkness. Its growth is very gradual, an approach which recurs throughout the course of the disc. Eventually, the orchestra is fully roused.
The title cut is a rumbling leviathan, with deep trombone underlinings leading up to a gristly Lakatos solo, trading weighty phrases with Douglas as they urge on a sustained bout of climaxing. This is quite conventional big band arranging, considering much of its composer's prior work. "Tree And Shrub" is a shorter, more impressionistic piece, recalling the palette of Gil Evans or even Maria Schneider. Peter Fell provides a sensitively muted trombone solo on "Persistence Of Memory," sending out lightly billowing cloud-puffs. Douglas follows with a lean articulation, once again concerned with making a steady ascent. The closing "Blockbuster" is the most adventurous number, climaxing with harsh horn sweeps, rippling with a fearsomely physical motion.
Douglas has succeeded in making music on a giant scale, with much valuable assistance from McNeely. The subjective sphere of these compositions is swirling with exaggerated gestures. Douglas carefully sculpts great edifices of energy, emerging from tradition, but pushing the core big band form to a gloriously strained capacity.
Track Listing: The Presidents; Bury Me Standing; A Single Sky; Campaign Trail; Tree And Shrub; Persistence Of Memory; Blockbuster.
Personnel: Dave Douglas: trumpet; Jim McNeely: conductor; Oliver Leicht: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, alto flute, clarinet; Stefan Pfeifer-Galilea: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, clarinet; Tony Lakotos: tenor saxophone, flute; Steffen Weber: tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet; Rainer Heute: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Chad Shoopman: trumpet; Thomas Vogel: trumpet; Martin Auer: trumpet, flugelhorn; Axel Schlosser: trumpet; Gunter Bollmann: trombone; Peter Feil: trombone; Christian Jakso: trombone; Manfred Honetschlager: bass trombone; Martin Scales: guitar; Peter Reiter: piano; Thomas Heidepriem: bass; Jean Paul Hochstadter: drums.