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When it comes to varied musical projects, trumpeter Dave Douglas seems to be almost schizoid in his zeal for not recreating himself. On a purely artistic level, that's a good thing. But for those trying to follow his career it can all seem to be a bit disjointed. You know, "I liked his last record, but what the hell is up with this new one?" That's why for me, and possibly other fans as well, The Infinite is the record I've been waiting for Dave to make for some time now (actually his DIW set came close a few years back). It's not too left of center, has a drummer on board, and allows Douglas' own eclectic sense of musical adventure to run wild.
Of course, on the surface it might seem like this is Douglas' tribute record to Miles Davis. I mean, all the signs are there- Uri Caine's exclusive use of Fender Rhodes, the muted trumpet in spots, and a direct quote of "Boplicity" that occurs during "Penelope." But like the cover of a book, things aren't always what they seem. For one thing, Douglas is clearly his own man and the implications of his own musical personality forego the obvious. Still, the title track has a strong Shorterish quality to it and the interface between Douglas and Chris Potter and retort from the entire rhythm section throughout is the kind of multi-level interaction that marked Davis' best ensembles.
Much has been made of the inclusion of several pop tunes here, but they have been so transformed as to be almost unrecognizable. Mary J. Blige's "Crazy Games" takes off on a samba beat with both Potter and Douglas making strong statements along the way. Building to a resourceful climax, Bjork's "Unison" finds our two lead men intertwined with their collective thoughts, as Potter sputters away on bass clarinet.
Douglas' own originals are jam-packed with furtive pathways and mysterious turns that lead to new directions and a collective ensemble methodology that reveals itself further with successive exposures. Each member of this new group is innovative on their own, but they pack quite a collective punch as lead by Douglas.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.