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Dave Douglas Quintet with Special Guest Aoife O' Donovan: Be Still

Glenn Astarita By

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Eminent trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas models change through innovation. Among the more important progressive jazz musicians of the past three decades, he's evolved into a motivator and guiding light for scores of seasoned jazz artisans and progressive music upstarts. This 2012 campaign bridges Americana with equal parts jazz, folk, and hymnal pieces with a translucent melding of disparate genres, often intimating a custom-built design. The music resonates across rolling hills, seamless shifts in strategy and memorably melodic storylines, graced by vocalist Aoife O' Donovan's crystalline delivery, spanning jazz and pop inflections, bluegrass, and folksiness. Besides the hymnal elements, Douglas intermittently injects some pop into the program, as the band throttles the energy quotient and broadens its focus with peppy improvisational segments.

The sensitivities surrounding the album content relate to the passing of Douglas's mother who passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer, and the hymns were performed at her memorial service. With O'Donovan's softly woven vocals, the band sometimes elicits notions of famed bluegrass artist Alison Krauss' delving into the jazz vernacular. However, Douglas's bold, lyrically charged, and melodic lines often shade, counter and support O'Donovan's harmonious choruses.

"High On A Mountain" is rooted in bluegrass, but drummer Rudy Royston imparts a hybrid shuffle groove into the mix, tinted with saxophonist Jon Irabagon's soulful lines. On "Barbara Allen," the quartet forges a translucent, hybrid Americana/jazz approach, marked by O' Donovan's deeply probing vocals, as the hornists color the primary theme via warm unison phrasings. The group kicks it up a notch on Douglas "Middle March," floating, soaring and skirting the free zone atop an asymmetrical pulse amid some expansion and contraction mechanisms.

Be Still is a significant entry into Douglas's hefty and multifarious discography. It's a beautiful production, brimming with memorable pieces that sustain recurring listens. Figuratively speaking, the program may be analogous to an elegantly wrapped gift waiting to be opened.

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