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Dave Douglas: Strange Liberation

Jim Santella By

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With an exotic title track that reminds us where jazz is headed, Dave Douglas and his ensemble of all-stars takes the listener on a tour on this Strange Liberation. With the kids in the back seat and a self-invited brother-in-law doing the driving, the family is all nestled in the SUV for a vacation of jazz impressions. From New Orleans, up the Mississippi River, out to New York, then back to Chicago, stayin’ a spell in Kansas City before heading on out West, Douglas has prepared eleven original compositions to carry on a leisurely adventure.

Emphasizing his ensemble sound over individual improvisation, the leader blends sounds that he feels identify America. He’s attempted to capture the country’s spirit in the impressions that the band makes; however, as with all impressionism, it’s a matter of interpretation. You hear poe-TAY-toe, while I hear poe-TAH-toe.

Chris Potter, Bill Frisell and Douglas weave melodic lines together that cry out for understanding. Mourning phrases, with their roots in the blues, carry their mood through most of the album. These adventurous melodic phrases and Douglas’ robust harmonic creations mark his music as heads (and more) above the usual suspects. He’s created music to hear again and again: music to be performed by others in this field we call jazz.

Whether it’s the hot tenor solo on “Seventeen” or the sensual electric piano echoes found throughout the program, Douglas has provided something familiar along with the fresh news. The leader’s own horn doesn’t dominate the performance, but he does flesh it out with a substantial amount of good-tasting trumpet talk.

When asked “Where is jazz going?” Douglas replies, “I always say that it’s going in a million directions at once.” He proves that point well on this latest album with a touch of country, a touch of blues, a touch of rock & roll, and a foundation of traditional jazz. The ensemble’s modern mainstream exterior puts Douglas at the top, and provides a stellar example for the rest to follow.


Track Listing: A Single Sky, Strange Liberation, Skeeter-ism, Just Say This, Seventeen, Mountains From The Train, Rock Of Billy, The Frisell Dream, Passing Through, The Jones, Catalyst.

Personnel: Dave Douglas, trumpet; Chris Potter, tenor sax and bass clarinet; Uri Caine, electric piano; James Genus, acoustic and electric basses; Clarence Penn, drums; Bill Frisell, guitar.

Title: Strange Liberation | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: RCA Victor

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