Dave Douglas: Convergence

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Even if you consider yourself only marginally knowledgeable about modern jazz, there remains virtually no valid excuse for not having heard of trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas. Over the past 5 years Douglas' recordings have appeared on numerous yearly "best of " lists including those of the New York Times, the Village Voice and All About Jazz. His various projects include tribute albums to Booker Little, Wayne Shorter, and Joni Mitchell all of which feature his own adventurous compositions in addition to inventive interpretations of compositions by the artists-in-tribute. Although he might be best known as a member of John Zorn's Masada, his versatile talents as a trumpeter have also prominently contributed to recordings by pianists Myra Melford, Uri Caine, Steve Beresford, and Fred Hersch; bassists Michael Formanek, Mark Dresser, Greg Cohen, Mario Pavone, and John Lindberg; clarinetists Don Byron, Ned Rothenberg, and Francois Houle, and saxophonist Larry Ochs. Douglas has repeatedly appeared in the Down Beat Critics' Poll as TDWR (Talent Deserving Wider Recognition).

In this latter respect, you can be forgiven (but only momentarily) if you've never actually heard the work of Dave Douglas. Despite a prolific output, he's never released a disc for a major recording label. Douglas' recordings have instead graced a number of lesser known, small, or newer music labels, such as Arabesque, New World/Countercurrents, Winter and Winter, Avant, DIW, Songlines, Knitting Factory, and hat ART. His discs are difficult, but far from impossible, for the resourceful and ardent follower of modern jazz to find and procure (far more inexplicable is why jazz radio programming consistently ignores music from these labels).

Dave Douglas' latest release, Convergence, is both his third for the Soul Note label and the third recording of what could be his most ambitious ensemble, a quintet (referred to as the String Group) which in addition to Douglas (trumpet) includes the formidable talents of Mark Feldman (violin), Erik Friedlander (cello), Drew Gress (bass), and Michael Sarin (drums).

All About Jazz was unexpectedly favored with good fortune when Dave Douglas agreed to the proposal of an impromptu interview to discuss Convergence. We caught up with Douglas in mid-March during a particularly hectic week bookended by performances of the Sanctuary and Charms of the Night Sky bands and just before embarking on a three week tour of Europe with the Tiny Bell Trio.

On String Group Convergence

All About Jazz: In his essay "Kafka and His Precursors," Jorge Luis Borges writes, "The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future." Do you think this statement could also be applied to you and your work as a musician/composer? If so, who or what might your precursors be? Which works do you think might bear resemblance to works of your own, yet nevertheless have little resemblance to each other? What disparate singularities, ideas, or qualities in these works might a listener be able to be draw together as a result of your composing and recording?

Dave Douglas: In "Lutoslawski Profile," a book of interviews with the Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski, he says, "Composers often do not hear the music that is being played; it only serves as an impulse for something quite different— for the creation of music that only lives in their imagination. It is a sort of schizophrenia—we are listening to something and at the same time creating something else." I would have to agree, and add that by making new music we influence the way the music of the past is seen. I have tried in my own listening to stay open to as many different musics as possible, and I feel that everything I hear has an influence in some way. I was lucky as a young child to hear all sorts of different musics with no value judgements attached. Perhaps the only defining quality of my music would be that I'm open to exploring these many areas, all the while trying to make the result something unique and honest.


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