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On “Convergence” the brilliant trumpeter-composer Dave Douglas pursues new territory following up on “Parallel Worlds” and the more recent “Five”. Douglas once again utilizes the sparkling talents of violinist Mark Feldman and cellist Erik Friedlander as the combination of strings, trumpet, and rhythm section consisting of Drew Gress (bass) and Michael Sarin (drums) create music that transcend many of the existing boundaries of jazz. “Parallel Worlds” and “Five” were landmark recordings for Douglas’ chamber-like excursions with his lead trumpet, string arrangements, pounding backbeats and keen sense of swing which comprised a sound that added a new and refreshing dimension to modern jazz. Historically speaking, Douglas’ utilization of strings within this unit tends to play more of an active role contrasting other projects of this ilk past and present. Douglas’ creative visions along with these superb musicians-stylists project a group feel, which sounds uncannily natural. “Convergence” could be a pivotal masterpiece for this band as they extend their collective wares to provide music that is dazzling, pleasantly hypnotic, non-derivative and flawlessly executed.
The brief opener is a traditional Burmese song which translates to “Will You Accept My Love Or Not?” as the band performs incredible unison runs with all the intensity of a turbo-charged Indian raga or John McLaughlin’s amazing Jazz-East Indian band “Shakti”. Douglas’ “Joe’s Auto Glass” is filled with complex charts which touch upon Ornette Coleman’s renowned harmolodic development while Douglas’ “Tzotzil Maya” exemplifies the trumpeter’s sweet, crystalline tone and brilliant lyricism. Despite flawless technique, Douglas is a team player and skilled bandleader, as his compositions increasingly become more identifiable as time passes by reflecting his glaring personalized vision. “Meeting at Infinity” borders classical, blues and hefty doses of hard-edged swing as the thematic approach is multi-colored and at times linear. “Meeting at Infinity” is a prime example of Douglas’ collage approach to compositional development. On Kurt Weill’s “Bilbao Song”, the band performs a playful tribute to Weill as Mark Feldman’s sonorous and lush violin passages prod the band into an about face as they deconstruct the familiar melody line. Michael Sarin’s polyrhythmical drumming is a thing of beauty as he lays the foundation for an all hands blowout of sparkling improvisation and winding thematic development. Douglas takes the lead, as wit and humor intentionally and momentarily bastardize the melody while the movements seamlessly transform into lush romanticism.
Douglas’ tribute to the late great “poet of jazz” drummer Tony Williams is portrayed via his composition “Goodbye Tony”. Here, Mark Feldman opens with a monstrous violin solo as Michael Sarin’s intense drumming paves the way for the forthcoming intensity along with Drew Gress’ pulsating bass lines. Douglas solos with passion and fire as this tribute to Tony Williams turns into a ferocious swing romp while Friedlander and Feldman change gears and handle the bottom end with Gress and Sarin. The proceedings heat up as the band engage in impossibly fast yet fluctuating tempos. Douglas and co. trace the evolution of William’s jazz career from Miles Davis, to his 1980’s Quartet with Wallace Roney. Erik Friedlander gradually balances the torrid pace with a pensive, warm cello solo, followed by light choruses that suggest heartfelt or sad emotions in accordance with the untimely passing of this great and important jazz giant. “Goodbye Tony” appropriately ends on a somber note.
“Convergence” is a milestone recording for this band as Dave Douglas continues his masterful assault on modern jazz. Enough said. ***** Out of 5 stars. Hopefully USA jazz radio will not ignore this gem and give “Convergence” some much deserved airplay; hence the pathetic state of affairs for jazz radio in general, that notion may be wishful thinking. Thankfully, Soul Note Records enjoys widespread distribution in the USA and in Europe.
Dave Douglas: Trumpet; Mark Feldman: Violin; Erik Friedlander: Cello; Drew Gress: Bass; Michael Sarin: Drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.