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Interviews

Dave Douglas: There's Wisdom Everywhere in the Universe

By Published: June 17, 2013
AAJ: Maybe you could fill us in a bit more on what Banff is and what it means to you...

DD: Oh sure. The Banff Centre for the Arts is about two hours west of Calgary, Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies. It's a great musical facility where, for the last 35 years, there's been a jazz and creative music program that lasts for three weeks. It was directed by [bassist] Dave Holland
Dave Holland
Dave Holland
b.1946
bass
at its inception, and various others such as [saxophonist] Steve Coleman
Steve Coleman
Steve Coleman
b.1956
saxophone
, [pianist] Kenny Werner
Kenny Werner
Kenny Werner
b.1951
piano
, and [trombonist] Hugh Fraser have also directed it. And in 2002, I was offered the directorship, so I took it over for ten years and invited all of my favorite musicians to come up and teach. And I'm not going to name names, but almost anyone you can think of came up for a week to teach. So, now Vijay Iyer is directing it, and this week he's got Esperanza Spalding, Ravi Coltrane
Ravi Coltrane
Ravi Coltrane
b.1965
sax, tenor
, [trumpeter] Ambrose Akinmusire
Ambrose Akinmusire
Ambrose Akinmusire
b.1982
trumpet
, [trumpeter] Wadada Leo Smith
Wadada Leo Smith
Wadada Leo Smith
b.1941
trumpet
, [drummer] Tyshawn Sorey
Tyshawn Sorey
Tyshawn Sorey
b.1980
drums
, and [saxophonist] Hafez Modirzadeh
Hafez Modirzadeh
Hafez Modirzadeh

saxophone
... it's a great program and a lot of young musicians know about it.

AAJ: I'd heard of it, but wasn't sure if everyone else had...

DD: ...and another thing I've got going on is Sound Prints which I co-lead with Joe Lovano. It's Lawrence Fields on piano, Linda Oh on bass, and Joey Baron on drums. We've been doing this for about a year, or a year-and-a-half. And it definitely takes off on the inspiration of the life and work of Wayne Shorter, but we decided to celebrate that by writing original music. So each of us wrote a set of special pieces dedicated to that idea. It's really a unit now, and we've toured enough that it's really come together. Joe is one the most inspiring people in music, and I feel like—when I'm on stage with him—he makes me play better. It's just like playing with [saxophonist] John Zorn
John Zorn
John Zorn
b.1953
sax, alto
all those years... he lifted me, too.

Joey Baron is one of my favorite musicians of all time, it's really a privilege writing music for him, just an incredible opportunity. We'll be playing a fair number of concerts this summer, celebrating Wayne Shorter's 80th birthday. It's a triple bill of us, a trio with pianist Geri Allen
Geri Allen
Geri Allen
b.1957
piano
, Esperanza Spalding on bass, and [drummer] Terri Lyne Carrington
Terri Lyne Carrington
Terri Lyne Carrington
b.1965
drums
, and Wayne Shorter's Quartet. We'll be doing this at Town Hall in New York, at the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Hollywood Bowl, and a few other places. It's just such a thrill... it's one more incredible place that the music has brought me, and I'm grateful every day for this gift.

AAJ: That sounds like a truly amazing concert... One last question I wanted to ask you was about John Zorn. In the Downbeat interview, you mention that he asked you to play a solo in the style of [trumpeter] Tony Fruscella. I thought that was so perfect...

DD: ...you mean that he would say that?

AAJ: Yes! And your response was... well you were horrified. And I really understood that. I mean, a jazz artist owns a solo. It's your solo. How dare you tell me to play like someone else...

DD: Well, I learned, then, to do it differently...

AAJ: Yes, and that's what was great. You went 180 degrees the other way and you made it work, and it made you a better musician.

DD: It's really important for young musicians, and really for just anyone. To put it another way: Who am I to tell anyone else what to do in their music? Being open-minded is really important, and being open-minded means that you are aware that you may not have all the answers. What someone says to you, even if it seems like bullshit, is worth thinking about and checking out. There's wisdom everywhere in the universe.

AAJ: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

DD: I'd just like to encourage people to check out the music, the free podcasts, the T-shirts, the sheet music and the other stuff at greenleafmusic.com

AAJ: It's a real meaty website, that's for sure. Those podcasts are great... really substantial and thoughtful...

DD: Well, I'm a voracious podcast listener. And not just music. Politics and culture, and the arts... it's become an interesting way to encounter information. And you don't have to sit there and memorize it all or take notes like you're in school or something. It's a way that so many in the world now are sharing their interests. It's a wonderful thing and I really wanted to do it in my own way.

Selected Discography

Dave Douglas Quintet, Time Travel (Greenleaf Music, 2013)

Dave Douglas Quintet with Aoife O'Donovan, Be Still (Greenleaf Music, 2012)

Dave Douglas Quartet, Magic Triangle / Leap of Faith (Greenleaf Music, 2012)

Uri Caine Ensemble, Mahler—Caine: The Drummer Boy (Winter & Winter, 2011)

Guy Klucevsek, The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour (Innova /Naxos, 2012)

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas
b.1963
trumpet


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