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Dave Douglas: There's Wisdom Everywhere in the Universe

Dave Wayne By

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We're republishing this June 2013 in celebration of the 10 year anniversary of Dave Douglas's Greenleaf Music record label.

When All About Jazz last spoke with trumpeter, multi-bandleader, teacher, composer, marathon runner, podcaster, and record label head honcho Dave Douglas in November, 2011, he was in the Ukraine on the last leg of a tour with the French accordionist Richard Galliano. We spoke about his newest musical project, Sound Prints, a quintet with saxophonist Joe Lovano and drummer Joey Baron playing music inspired by and dedicated to [saxophonist] Wayne Shorter.

Simultaneously, Douglas was preparing for a week-long engagement at The Jazz Standard with three of his latest projects: the Dave Douglas Quintet, Brass Ecstasy, and a collaboration with the innovative new music group Sō Percussion. We also spoke about Douglas' recent work with KeyMotion, a plugged-in collaboration between Douglas' Keystone band and saxophonist Donny McCaslin's electric group, Perpetual Motion.

As of the Spring of 2013, all of these projects—with the notable exceptions of the Quintet and Sound Prints—have been placed on the backburner, and the Quintet has undergone significant personnel changes. Such is life on the cutting edge.

As the jazz world eagerly awaits Sound Prints' first recording, Douglas has released two new Quintet recordings: the beautifully transcendent Be Still (Greenleaf, 2012), and Time Travel (Greenleaf, 2013). A collaboration with vocalist Aoife O'Donovan, Be Still is a collection of American folk songs and hymns chosen by Douglas' mother, Emily (who died in 2011), rearranged and reinterpreted. Be Still is a truly remarkable album. The musicianship, as with all of Douglas' work, is second-to-none, and the music itself has a profound warmth and vulnerability that lingers. His latest release, Time Travel, is no less wonderful, but for totally different reasons. Here, Douglas returns to the world of hip and complex modern jazz, transformed and tempered perhaps by recent major life events including the decision to end his tenure as the director of the Jazz and Creative Music Programme at the Banff Centre, his mother's death, and his own 50th birthday. At the same time, Douglas has revived his Sextet—a project that had remained dormant since the early 2000s—and already has a recording in the can.

Douglas also remains an active musical collaborator. In the past couple of years, he's appeared on recordings by pianist Uri Caine, including Mahler—Caine: The Drummer Boy (Winter & Winter, 2011), and accordionist Guy KlucevsekThe Multiple Personality Reunion Tour (Innova / Naxos, 2012). He's also overseen the reissue of two of his own early recordings, Magic Triangle / Leap of Faith (2012), and produced a dizzying array of recordings, including new releases by McCaslin, and bassists Matt Ullery, and Linda May Han Oh, all for his own label, Greenleaf Music. Via Greenleaf, Douglas not only sells CDs, DVDs, sheet music, and downloads of the label's music, he also maintains a keenly insightful blog (a must-read for every musician and fan) and a regular podcast series in which he converses with a broad swath of today's most important and energetic modern musicians. And there are T-shirts.

So, Dave Douglas is a busy, busy man. Warm, humorous, and thoughtful, he turns 50 this year and despite his inveterate busy-ness, he's still able to sit back and offer some valuable and chronologically appropriate reflections on music and life.

Dave Douglas: ...so, I was wondering what sort of software you're using to record our conversation. The reason I ask is because we're doing more podcasts and we've been recording some interviews on Skype.

Dave Douglas—Time TravelAll About Jazz: It's funny you mention that because I just listened to your podcast with [pianist] Matt Mitchell. It was really interesting because you're taking a real process-oriented approach when you discuss music. You're offering listeners a window into the inner workings of what it takes to write music, or produce a CD, or perform a show.

DD: Well, Matt's music is great, and not everybody knows it, and you get his perspective. The same is true of the conversation with [saxophonist] Henry Threadgill, and [guitarist] Miles Okazaki's episode, and [saxophonist] Jon Irabagon's. I am hoping more people will subscribe to and follow the whole series.

AAJ: ...those are all people who obviously have a lot to say. You're interviewing some fascinating musicians.

DD: Well, you can check them all out on iTunes, and if you want, you can leave a Twitter-length review. This is the sort of stuff that really helps get the word out on our podcasts. And they're free.

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