Dave Douglas has many faces. He can turn his cheek to Balkan, Indian, or free jazz. He is as much at home in the Knitting Factory as in a chamber orchestra. Of his two newest releases, (see review of Leap Of Faith ) this project is an almost pure mainstream jazz offering. Douglas’ Sextet has two prior recordings, both tributes. The 1995 In Our Lifetime session was a tribute to trumpeter Booker Little and his 1997 release Stargazer focused on saxophonist Wayne Shorter. This time around he chose the pioneering female pianist Mary Lou Williams, covering four of her compositions and using others as inspiration for his own writing.
Mary Lou Williams faced the challenge of being a woman in a man’s world of jazz. Her response was to stay well ahead of the curve, always playing with a very modern sound. She wrote music and arrangements for Andy Kirk’s band and also for Benny Goodman, Earl Hines and Tommy Dorsey. It was Duke Ellington, her one time employer, that coined the tribute and title of this record, Duke said William’s timeless music was, “like soul on soul.”
For Douglas’ first US major label release, he chose to record music that was accessible to devotees of the Wynton Marsalis revolution as well as Douglas’ own legion of fans. Like Mary Lou Williams herself, the sextet takes us from the stride piano styling of Uri Caine to the post-bop saxophone lamentations of Chris Speed and Greg Tardy. It is almost as if Douglas is telling us it can be just as hip to look backward, as it is to look forward. Mary Lou Williams’ music affords just such opportunity.
Track List:Blue Heaven; Ageless; Soul On Soul; Moon Of The West; Canticle; Aries; Mary’s Idea; Waltz Boogie; Multiples; Kyrie; Zonish; Eleven Years Old; Play It Momma.