Dave Douglas and Keystone Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago October 8, 2005 This has been a great period for trumpeter Dave Douglas. The Infinite, Freak In, Strange Liberation, Mountain Passagesno bandleader this decade has surpassed Douglas in terms of remarkable recorded output. The excellence of the above CDs makes the fact that I like his new Keystone the best of all of them pretty much a matter of subjective taste; we're dealing with an abundance of riches here. The music on Keystone developed as a result of Douglas's fascination with now-obscure silent film comic Roscoe "Fatty Arbuckle, whose status as filmic auteur (he wrote, directed and starred in his films) predates the still-revered Charlie Chaplin. Douglas wrote Keystone's modern electronics-imbued jazz to function as new scores for some of Arbuckle's films. The Keystone albumonly available online through Douglas's Greenleaf labelcomes with an accompanying DVD of Arbuckle's 1916 three-reeler Fatty & Mabel Adrift, so one can judge at home how well Douglas' score works as accompaniment to Arbuckle's silent comedy. It certainly worked magnificently as live music. Douglas and his band Keystoneconsisting of Douglas, saxophonist Marcus Strickland,drummer Gene Lake, bassist Brad Jones, turntablist Jahi Sundance Lake and Fender Rhodes player Adam Benjaminbrought the music and the filmic elements of the Keystone project to Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music. The musicians were the same as those that made the recording with the substitution of Sundance Lake for turntablist DJ Olive and Benjamin for Wurlizer player Jamie Saft. Did the music work as background music for silent film?
For that matter, was it truly intended to? A hysterical and unjust scandal left Arbuckle's career in ruins by the 1920s, and at this event it was the name Douglas, not Arbuckle, that was attracting customers. Douglas, however, is a fascinated Arbuckle fan, and the band performed seated below the film screen ("Can everyone see? he asked. "Are we in the way? ).
The performance started with the longest film, the 34-minute Fatty & Mabel Adrift. The band sounded fantastic as it launched into the score (specifically the gorgeously expansive theme of the piece on the CD called "Sapphire Sky Blue ), Sundance Lake's turntables swooping and sighing from the Old Town's superlative sound system. The music then went into parts of "Butterfly Effect (Strickland playing exquisite soprano) and the hard electrogroove of "Famous Players or so it seemed to me; I may have mistaken some themes for others. In any case, the latter section had a particularly killing solo from the leader on open horn; it's getting a bit absurd to remark upon how well Douglas is playing trumpet lately, because "lately is beginning to cover many years.
Meanwhile the film played above the musicians, and despite its modern hue, the music works well as counterpart to Arbuckle's comedy. I have to absent myself from any deeper discussion here, as I was probably a little too music-obsessed to sit back and enjoy the filmand I've always been an Arbuckle fan. I tended to drift away from the movie to watch the band. Certainly, an up-tempo section of the score blended seamlessly with a particularly droll sequence in the film of Arbuckle, Mabel Norman and Luke the Dog sitting together around a table at mealtime (Luke gets his own chair). Just as amusing was the sight of Douglas here watching and laughing at the sequence between his blistering trumpet parts.
Whatever my ability to appreciate the movie, the band worked through Douglas' score precisely and with plenty of power and groove. A long section using the theme of "A Noise From the Deep simply smoked as Douglas delivered a bracing muted trumpet solo over Jones' supple stoptime lines on his Ampeg Baby Bass and Benjamin's chiming Rhodes. Benjamin's Rhodes was perhaps slightly less of a presence live than Jamie Saft's Wurlitzer was on record, and Sundance Lakes' turntables were somewhat more of a presence live than DJ Olive's on CDbut this is one of Douglas' best bands and drummer Gene Lake is a remarkably versatile, nuanced player.
The group then performed its score to the two-reel Fatty's Tintype Tangle; this incorporated the music from the glorious "Just Another Murder, with its irresistable time shifts from a grooving 4/4 to a manic doubletime 2/4, drummer Lake working these shifts dynamically under a fine tenor solo from Strickland. The film's pretty good, too, and its finale of Arbuckle fleeing a crazed Alaskan by scampering across a high power line (you probably had to be there to understand) was accompanied by some appropriate percussive bedlam and horn accents before the group snapped back into the "Just Another Murder theme for the picture's end.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
Login to your All About Jazz member account to submit articles and press releases, upload images, edit musician profiles, add events and business listings, communicate with other members via personal messages, submit inqueries or contribute any content.