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Dave Douglas Quintet: Songs Of Ascent Book 1—Degrees


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Dave Douglas Quintet: Songs Of Ascent Book 1—Degrees
"Devotion is not a singular expression. I wanted to come at this from as many directions as the psalms do." Dave Douglas.

Trumpeter Dave Douglas released one of the finest recordings of his career in 2010, Spark Of Being (Greenleaf Records), a musical immersion into Mary Shelley's pioneering horror & science fiction novel Frankenstein. Douglas is at his best when he bites into themes—Frankenstein, the films of Fatty Arbuckle, the music of pianist & composer Mary Lou Williams, Dizzy Gillespie and, with 2021's Secular Psalms, The Adoration Of The Mystic Lamb, a fifteenth century polyptych painted for display at St. Bavos Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium.

For Douglas' 2022 release, a religious theme comes around again, with Songs Of Ascent Book 1—Degrees, his take on Biblical Psalms, specifically those known as "The Songs Of Ascent." To these he added, as an opener, his own composition in the mood of the fifteen psalm tunes, "Never Let Me Go."

Douglas uses the standard jazz quintet mode of expression here, trumpet and sax with a bass, drums and piano rhythm section. But the sounds they make are not traditional. Neither would they be considered free jazz, but they do come together in a loose, freewheeling, on-edge collective voice which Douglas has been sharpening for more than two decades. Saxophonist Jon Irabagon goes out a good deal of the time. Pianist Matt Mitchell is chameleon-like, as always fitting into any situation he joins. The music proves itself, if not spiritual, joyously spirited. The brimming spirit is in them, and that spirit has got to come out. And it does, mildly cacophonous at times, often brash, assertively joyous, featuring spiraling and interwoven melodic lines. In a blindfold test the individual players might not be readily identifiable; but the Douglas sound, those whirlwind arrangements and fierce expressions of ideas, would be.

Songs of Ascent Book 1—Degrees is the first disc in the two-part series. It is a conventional release, coming out on CD and digitally. The second, Songs Of Ascent Book 2—Steps, will only be available to those who subscribe to Greenleaf Music's membership offerings.

Douglas has presented these psalm nods in order, starting with "Psalm 120" and ending, on this first CD in the series, with "Psalm 126." He takes the tunes' titles from lines of each particular psalm: "Deceitful Tongues," "Mouth Full of Joy," et cetera. And the supposition that these works are not spiritual comes with a caveat. Perhaps they are; it probably depends on the ear of the beholder. But churchy sounding? No. This is passionate, well-executed, twenty-first century jazz, one of Douglas' finest recordings.

Track Listing

Never Let Me Go; Deceitful Tongues; Lift Up My eyes; Peace within Your Walls; Enthroned; A Fowler's Snare; Scepter; Mouths Full of Joy.


Dave Douglas
Jon Irabagon
saxophone, sopranino
Linda May Han Oh
bass, acoustic

Album information

Title: Songs Of Ascent Book 1 — Degrees | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Greenleaf Music



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