Dave Douglas: Convergence
Trumpeter Dave Douglas' growing list of credits includes a star turn in the ever-increasing oeuvre of John Zorn's Masada, the celebrated quartet that turns Hebrew folk melodies into tremendous occasions of Ornette-flavored up-tempo jazz improvisation. Douglas himself has demonstrated, independently of Zorn, a flair for jazzing folk melodies that is at the forefront again on the magnificent Convergence, his new quintet release on Soul Note.
Joined by congenial partners, including violinist Mark Feldman, cellist Erik Friedlander, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Michael Sarin, Douglas demonstrates here why he is one of the most exciting trumpeters on the contemporary scene. The centerpiece of the set is six originals, which betraying both affections that Douglas shares with Zorn: folk melodies and Ornette. Both peek through during the furious duelling of "Joe's Auto Glass," while "Tzotzil Maya" is considerably more subdued and provides one of the disc's rare non-Douglas highlights: a bowed climax courtesy Feldman and Friedlander. But Douglas' solo on this track and elsewhere show that for all the recognition he has received in recent years, he may be even better (and more important) than folks in the know are saying. For one thing, and rare praise these days, he is his own voice, instead of being another grainy copy of Miles or Lee Morgan or Brownie. His skills as a composer and an arranger also set him in another class.
Take "Meeting at Infinity," for example. Although nearly sixteen minutes long and full of vertiginously shifting approaches, this track never merely meanders or loses its focus. Heavy with strings (with this instrumentation, how could it not be?), it never loses its focus, and stands up well in the contemporary classical idiom next to the French composer Olivier Messiaen's "Desseins Eternels," which follows it on the disc, and Kurt Weill's arch "Bilbao Song," which follows the Messiaen piece.
Also included here is a delightful Burmese folk piece, "Chit Kyoo Thwe Tog Nyin Hmar Lar," and Bob Dorough's "Nothing Like You." These pieces are good indications of Douglas' expansive vision. But the main reason to get this disc is that it sounds good. Great, in fact.