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Dave Douglas: A Creative Consciousness

By Published: December 5, 2011
AAJ: At least you can still go to the music store and try out the instruments in person.

DD: [Laughs.] Well, you bring up a good point, because I discovered music in school and had access to instruments through school. And I go to schools now, and it's just not available. You really have to struggle to put yourself in the way of an instrument at this point, in schools. And that's really a big problem.

Even in elementary school, even if you're not looking at a career in the arts or music, to be exposed to the arts and culture, to just have the experience of holding an instrument in your hand and try to feel what it is to make that sound—it's so important on so many levels. And levels which, later in life, may have nothing at all to do with music: interpersonal relationships, debating skills, thought and comprehension, and appreciation of culture and history. It's something that enriches the entire country.

AAJ: Please tell us about your upcoming projects. Is there any chance that your present tour with Richard Galliano will come to the US?

DD: I don't know. I haven't heard any rumors about that. This is the end of it, as far as I know. But when I come back, I'm going to jump right into this new project that's called Soundprints. It's a new quintet with Joe Lovano, and the rhythm section's going to be Lawrence Fields, James Genus, and Joey Baron. And it's music inspired by Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
—original compositions, some of his pieces—and there's a rumor that he may write something for us. I don't know if that's going to come to fruition, but I certainly hope that it does. We're playing a couple dates in Boston right at the end of this month, and then I'm going into this project at the Jazz Standard, and that will round up the year for me.

AAJ: And each of the four nights at the Standard will have a different band.

DD: Each night a different band. I think it's going to be considerably different than on the records, as usual. I think people know that when they go to hear jazz live, it's not going to be like it was on the records.

I'm especially excited about the So Percussion thing. We made that record in their studio. So we went out to their place in Brooklyn and we set up a mobile recording environment. They have this studio that's crammed with hundreds of percussion instruments. So what we're going to do now is see how many of them we can fit on stage down at the Jazz Standard [laughs]. The recording was interesting because it's all percussion, and at first I thought it was going to be all non- pitched, you know, just trumpet and drums. And then I started having contact with them and writing, and they're playing steel drums—which are pitched, obviously—and bass marimba, all kinds of bells, pump organ. And so the session ended up in this very rich place that ended up somewhere in between the pitched percussion world and the non-pitched. And it brought all of these very interesting timbral possibilities to the table.

I had written some really challenging polyrhythmic parts for them as well, and that was the stuff they had the least amount of difficulty performing [laughs]. They nailed it the first time! And I said, "Wait a minute, guys, that's supposed to be really hard." And they just said, "This is what we do!" [laughs]. It was a really funny moment. So that's going to be a good night.

The night with Donny is going to be really special because we've been playing together for a long time. There's a recording of a concert we did at the festival this summer that, as the date of this next show gets closer, will probably appear in the Greenleaf stream. I have to say, Brass Ecstasy- -after doing it all these years—it's sort of like coming home. We did a lot of touring over the last few years, and now that's sort of moved off the front burner. But every time we get back together it's so much fun and it's so warm and sort of chaotic and crazy because we're all horn guys.

AAJ: As with Lester Bowie's brass band, there's a brashness and broad humor in Brass Ecstasy, but there's also this sweetness and lyricism. Are you going for that?

DD: Well, that's unavoidable for me. It's just who I am. But I also hear that in Lester. He was an incredibly lyrical player who could play a ballad that would make you cry. Maybe that was something that he wasn't primarily associated with, but I hear that, and that speaks to me, and maybe that's just because of who I am.

I always felt, growing up, that jazz was progressive music. My instinct in writing, and doing projects and developing relationships, was to do something innovative, and different and fresh. And it surprised me, when it came out, that it was typecast as avant-garde, because I'd always felt that I was somehow a lyrical player despite trying to avoid that, at times. So, when I hear people say avant-garde, I am always a little bit quizzical. And I feel, at this point, even the definition of the phrase avant-garde is somewhat open to question. So as much as I've been in these worlds of experimental music and progressive music, and as much as I love it and am still involved in that— when you say you hear this lyrical quality in the music of Brass Ecstasy, it's nice for me because that's at the heart of what I do—looking for melody and harmony and rhythm and all of the great traditional values in music. I just look for them in a different way. I'm looking for a new way to say "I love you."

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