488

Dave Douglas' Tiny Bell Trio: Constellations

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Dave Douglas' Tiny Bell Trio: Constellations When hatOLOGY put it out back in summer 2009, pianist Horace Tapscott's mother lode of groove, The Dark Tree, originally released in 1991, looked like a serious contender for best reissue of the year. It's still a player—but so too is trumpeter Dave Douglas' Tiny Bell Trio's Constellations, which slips under the wire at the eleventh hour.



First released in 1995, Constellations catches Douglas on the cusp of elevation to international downtown fame, and Tiny Bell's guitarist, Brad Shepik (then still known as Brad Schoeppach), and drummer, Jim Black, were close behind on their own trajectories. Constellations was a shared calling card and, 15 years later, it still sounds like a blast of fresh air.



Douglas had formed Tiny Bell as a vehicle for exploring European song forms, and the group's debut, The Tiny Bell Trio (Songlines, 1993), was centered on pieces by French, Hungarian and German composers. By February 1995, when Constellations was recorded in the Radio DRS studio in Zurich, Switzerland mid-way through a European tour, the group was including a greater proportion of originals in its repertoire. Six of the nine tracks on the album are by Douglas, with Herbie Nichols, Georges Brassens and Robert Schumann contributing the rest. Douglas' tunes retain a distinctly European resonance, a non-literalist mix of predominantly Spanish and Balkan influences, impassioned and exhilarating, which also finds room for more cerebral, conservatoire moments such as the rigorously chromatic "Scriabin."



The album opens with the wild, up tempo "Constellations" and carries on cooking at a high heat for most of its 58:58 minutes. There's a palpable feeling of anger behind some of Douglas' tunes. "Taking Sides" was written for the victims of the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia. "Maquiladora" references US industry-run, low-wage factories along the Mexican border. Douglas' arrangement of Nichols' bop burner "The Gig," on the other hand, is shot through with impish wit, returned to on Schumann's "Vanitatus Vanitatum (Mit Humor)." Brassens' "Les Croquants" is divertingly jaunty during its 2:47 minutes.



Douglas' trumpet, visceral and vocalized, steers most of the tracks, counterpointed by Shepik's emphatic, rock-tinged guitar and Black's leathery syncopations. As Douglas observes in his (brief) liner notes, three years down the line Tiny Bell had achieved split-second reaction times and extraordinary fluidity between the roles of soloist and accompanist. Douglas is undoubtedly the leader here but the music is a true collective endeavor. Three exploding stars, a shared focus, and one enduring masterpiece.


Track Listing: Constellations; Unhooking The Safety Net; Hope Ring True; Taking Sides; The Gig; Scriabin; Les Croquants; Maquiladore; Vanitatus Vanitatum (Mit Humor).

Personnel: Dave Douglas: trumpet; Brad Shepik: guitar; Jim Black: drums.

Title: Constellations | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Hat Hut Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Open Book CD/LP/Track Review Open Book
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Stolen Moments CD/LP/Track Review Stolen Moments
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Sonder CD/LP/Track Review Sonder
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Putting Off Death CD/LP/Track Review Putting Off Death
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends CD/LP/Track Review Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Heaven On Their Minds CD/LP/Track Review Heaven On Their Minds
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 16, 2017
Read "Like, Strange" CD/LP/Track Review Like, Strange
by Troy Collins
Published: April 5, 2017
Read "Garden(s)" CD/LP/Track Review Garden(s)
by Glenn Astarita
Published: July 14, 2017
Read "Air and Light and Time and Space" CD/LP/Track Review Air and Light and Time and Space
by John Eyles
Published: June 28, 2017
Read "Peace" CD/LP/Track Review Peace
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: December 18, 2016
Read "Behind The Mist" CD/LP/Track Review Behind The Mist
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: March 30, 2017
Read "Purple Patio" CD/LP/Track Review Purple Patio
by John Sharpe
Published: October 1, 2016

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.