As one of jazz's most omnivorous thinkers, trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas continues to explore ideas outside of the norm. Moonshine is a continuation with Keystonean electric sextet that includes Marcus Strickland (saxophones), Adam Benjamin (Fender Rhodes), Brad Jones (bass), Gene Lake (drums), and DJ Olive (turntables)exploring in music, the life and art of 1920s silent film actor/director Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, whose career was abruptly ended when he was falsely accused of murder.
Whether or not Douglas' odd juxtaposition of silent comedy and modern jazz works can be judged in the Arbuckle and Buster Keaton's Moonshine video, but Keystone successfully delivers Douglas' vision of Arbuckle's spirit with music that fuses multiple styles.
A masterful studio work that is lively, emotive and downright funky, the compositions convey a cinematic yet small ensemble sound. The dark shapes of "Dog Star," the bounce-groove tempo of the title song, and DJ Olive's subtle turntablism on "Married Life" and "Silent Stars" all make for an intriguing listen.
But in the end, Moonshine is a recording that is steeped in jazz tradition with top musicians performing top notch material. Lake and Jones' pulsating cadence carries Strickland's free flying tenor on "Scopes." The light horn/keyboard harmonization on "Flood Plane," as Douglas' warm trumpet adds a mysterious quality mixed with the sampled voice of a young boy in the Middle East. An empathetic human element is always present.
The recording's final track "Tough" is a throwback to the music of Motown, saxophonist Cannonball Adderley and keyboardist Joe Zawinul's 1970s urban jazz funk, and even old-school hip hop beats of Grand Master Flash (with a superb live drum solo by Gene Lake). It shows Douglas' appreciation of music's history and multiform art. So when you think about it's not a stretch for the trumpeter/composer to find inspiration in Arbuckle's life and works.
What's in store for Douglas in the future is anyone's guess, but it will more than likely be an interesting adventure.
Dog Star; Moonshine; Married Life; Silent Stars; Scopes; Flood Plane; Kitten; Tough.
Dave Douglas: trumpet; Marcus Strickland: saxophones; DJ Olive: turntables and laptop; Adam Benjamin; Fender Rhodes; Brad Jones: bass; Gene Lake: drums.
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