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Dave Douglas: A Creative Consciousness

By Published: December 5, 2011
AAJ: Even from your first CD, Parallel Worlds (Soul Note, 1993), you had a string trio, and it sounded like Bartok, but it was also quite obviously a jazz recording.

DD: Whether it's been done or not, all music is valid and important, and you should be thankful that it's here. And yet, what I think has happened is that as musicians look around for new things to do and for new sources of inspiration, the world expands and new elements come into the music. I think that can only be good for the music. I think that—especially around New York for some reason, and I wonder if it's always been this way—you can go out on any given night and hear young musicians doing some new tweak on the idea of musicians playing together and improvising. And it's going to be something that you never thought possible or viable. And this process is never going to stop. It's wonderful, and I feel pretty grateful to be a part of that.

AAJ: Back in 2006, when you were last interviewed for All About Jazz, a lot of the discussion was about forming your own record company, Greenleaf Music, and distributing your music online—and this was a big deal, a completely revolutionary move. Here we are, five or six years later, and the internet has become the medium. Instead of putting out CDs, the music is hosted by the cloud. The way we get to hear music is completely different, and you've been right at the forefront of that. How had this affected your music—how do you conceive of an album? What is an album anymore?

DD: I know; you're right. It's been a gradual process. I probably pointed out in that earlier interview that we did not set out to be an internet company. We gradually have drifted in this direction. Of course, we're still making CDs and the catalog keeps growing, and we're recording other artists, and the number of people who are able to find us and to get our records are growing every year. But the technology's changing too, and you've said something really prescient there, which is "What is an album in this day and age?" The wonderful thing about the technology is that it gives the artist a choice as to what they want the album to be. Is it a YouTube clip? Is your latest release something that's going to be on Tumblr? Or is your release going to be more or less 60 minutes of music in a Digipak with a set of liner notes? So there are a lot of different ways of releasing things.

One of the things I find exciting about Greenleaf and our relationship to our listeners is that the listeners are able to bundle. They can come to us and take what they want. Some get one track, a bunch of sheet music and a T- shirt. Some come and buy CDs, and we still do a lot of that by mail order. Of course, we're still distributed worldwide, and CDs are still going out that way. But I think that for subscribers who can stream the entire catalog from their mobile devices—that's the Cadillac of getting the music in your hands now, in any format that you want. And, at that point, it's access to the whole catalog. And what's to stop you from going through each album and checking it out? It's great.

AAJ: Tell us about some of the other artists who are available through Greenleaf. Of course, there's Donny McCaslin.

DD: Donny has done a few things for us now, and we're talking about the next record with him. Nicole Mitchell and Indigo Trio did a record for us a few years back with Harrison Bankhead and Hamid Drake
Hamid Drake
Hamid Drake
. Michael Bates, the bassist—he's just releasing a new record on Sunnyside that is fantastic [in addition to his releases on Greenleaf]. He's a great, great, young bassist. There's an equally great alto saxophonist, Curtis MacDonald. Also, Kneebody

—I am really proud that we put that one out. I think they're really one of the great groups out there.

AAJ: The way we hear about new artists has changed. These days, you don't often get that sense of connection between the artist and the label they're recording for. In the past, a label had a personality—a group of associated or similar artists—that led listeners to discover new artists.

DD: Well, I think that people who follow the music know that you're going to find artists by going straight to their website and figuring out what they're doing and where to get their recorded output. More artists are just taking it into their own hands and doing it themselves. It's much easier for the artist to do that now than it was 10 years ago. And yet the major distributors still have a lot of power, and the iTunes store still has awesome power, and I mean that in a good way. I'm not protesting. I think the iTunes Store is really an important place for music to be discovered, and we certainly sell there. But, again, it's certainly not like going into a record store and browsing around through the CDs, it's discovering things online through your computer, and artists are really taking advantage of putting themselves out there that way, and trying to expand their audience by reaching out and making the music more available.

For a lot of listeners, they never went to record stores. It's an alien concept to them, and it's a mistake to think that the music should still be distributed this way. I personally would love it if it was still like that, but that's the reality, and the music has to adapt as well.

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