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Dave Douglas: There's Wisdom Everywhere in the Universe

By Published: June 17, 2013
AAJ: So, the last time we spoke, you were in the Ukraine finishing up a tour with Richard Galliano playing [composer] Nino Rota's music. And you were about to hit in New York at the Jazz Standard with a new group—Sound Prints—with Joe Lovano and Joey Baron, playing the music of Wayne Shorter. The reason why I mention that is that I'd basically like to pick up where we left off. I know the last couple of years have had a lot of ups and downs for you... some really big events have happened in your life and in your music.

DD: Yeah, well, it's been a good time and a productive time. There's been a lot of changes, for me. One big thing is that, after 10 years directing the Jazz and Creative Music Programme at the Banff Center, I've decided to move on. The great young pianist, Vijay Iyer
Vijay Iyer
Vijay Iyer
, has taken over as the director, and they're up there right now as a matter of fact. It's very inspiring to see that the program is going to continue and keep getting better and better. It was a bit of a hard thing for me to give up, because I loved the program so much. But I also felt like it was something I had learned how to do. So, I wasn't doing it as creatively anymore. It really needs to be an improvised situation, and I had started following a form, so to speak. I'm very proud of everything we did, and I'm especially proud of all the students whom I often encounter all around New York, and all around the world. They're all making really great music.

Another change is that, as I was going through the process of learning my mother's favorite hymns—she handed a list of them to me on a slip of paper—I met the vocalist Aoife O'Donovan. And so I put together a new band to play these hymns and arrangements of traditional American folk songs. And it reinvigorated my vision of what I wanted to do with the Quintet. Playing with the Quintet is home base for me, and it always has been even though I've played in many, many different contexts over the years. After having such a fantastic experience with Uri Caine, [drummer] Clarence Penn
Clarence Penn
Clarence Penn
, Donny McCaslin, [bassist] James Genus
James Genus
James Genus
, and [saxophonist] Chris Potter
Chris Potter
Chris Potter
over a long number of years, I felt like I needed a new direction. And this new repertoire fit into my own composing and also my own vision of how I wanted to go forward in the Quintet format. As always, Wayne Shorter is a huge inspiration for me, and I cannot deny the influence of his current band on the way that I think about the Quintet. I see that influence in my own music quite a bit—I don't know if it's so apparent to others—but the importance of what Wayne's doing in this music cannot be overstated. So, I'd like to tip my hat to Wayne Shorter, to his influence...

And we made the CD, Be Still, last year. And that was a departure for me. It was a very lyrical record. I mean, it wasn't a departure in that it was a lyrical record. It was a departure in the sense that I had never worked with a vocalist before. And it really made me think about moving the arrangements and the energies around in different ways. And that led to this new record, which is called Time Travel, which celebrates both my 50th birthday, and the idea of looking forward and looking backward at the same time, at the music. It's about this journey we're all taking on this planet, through time. It's really fun to be out here touring with the band, as we attempt to play in all 50 states.

It's interesting, because I'm doing all sorts of different projects. Most of the tour is with the Quintet, but on some dates I'm playing with people who live in the different areas and some of it I'm doing smaller things, or bigger things. But I'm meeting a lot of people and really looking into what it would take to create some sort of network for jazz and creative music in this country.

AAJ: That's truly exciting because, even in my small town, there are some world-class players who've simply made the decision to live in Santa Fe, NM—for whatever reason—and not in New York, or Los Angeles, or the Bay Area, or Chicago...

DD: Well, maybe there's something to create there. Some of us New Yorkers can come out there and meet some of the musicians out there.

AAJ: The funny thing about Santa Fe is that it's sort of a vortex. People from all over are attracted to it, and they stay, and always for different reasons. It's a fascinating place...

DD: Oh, I love Santa Fe... I'd love to spend more time there for sure...

AAJ: So, getting back to Be Still... I was totally unfamiliar with Aoife O'Donovan. As a vocalist, she obviously comes from a non-jazz setting, but she fits in so perfectly.

DD: Aoife definitely works in a different neck of the woods, no pun intended, and you can check out her music online.

AAJ: So, where is she coming from, musically?

DD: She's a very experienced and very prolific vocalist and instrumentalist who spent a great deal of time co-leading a wonderful band called Crooked Still. They're just fantastic... almost a precursor to Punch Brothers, you might say. They're, perhaps, an alt-bluegrass band, for lack of a better term. It's quite a big scene, and one that I wasn't as aware of as I should have been. What led me to it was this idea of trying to bring traditional American folk music into the modern jazz world. Her music comes from the traditional side, and you'll hear her with [cellist] Yo-Yo Ma and [cellist] Edgar Meyer on the Goat Rodeo Sessions (Sony Masterworks, 2011), you'll hear her on Prairie Home Companion, if you listen to NPR...

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