June 21, 2024

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Above all is Douglas, the dazzling technician and eternal searcher for new paths, for unexpected combinations of supposedly well-known styles: Video, Photos

That’s how it is sometimes. You have a goal in mind and there are different ways to achieve it. The way over the pass may be more arduous than through the tunnel under the mountain, but it is also more exciting, eventful, and beautiful. Especially in jazz, the path is often the actual goal. One example is the concert by New Jersey trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas and his quintet at the sold out Birdland Jazzclub in Neuburg.

With each composition from his brand new album Songs Of Ascent, which will be the mainstay of the concert, the goal is clear, but not the path the band is taking to achieve it. Between the notated parts, the soloists – and these are without exception all members of this brilliantly cast formation – choose the route themselves, each in an absolutely original way. Nick Dunston on double bass as the ever-pulsating, periodically effervescent source, the fast-paced, yes, quicksilver Marta Warelis on grand piano, the enormously versatile and colorful Rudy Royston on drums, and finally the cunning Jon Irabagon on tenor saxophone, who has a genuine passion for Growls, high notes and similar special techniques and almost bursting with energy. And enthroned above all is Douglas, the dazzling technician and eternal searcher for new paths, for unexpected combinations of supposedly well-known styles and compositional schemes. But despite all the individual class, it’s always obvious: Douglas is Primus Inter Pares, the real star on this evening is clearly the entire band.

Dave Douglas” by C. Andrew Hovan - Jazz Photo

Of course it’s extremely exciting when mainstream and free, bebop and New Orleans, cool and soul jazz meet and new landscapes open up behind every bend in the road, lovely and rugged, peaceful and stormy, when the band indulges in almost spherical melodies and you’re the same says everyone has a swarm of bumblebees up their butts. The first set, with a long block lasting a good forty minutes, in which several compositions are pulled together to form a kind of suite, shows this particularly well. The arrangement of the individual parts works in a similar way to independent movements separated from one another by hard stops and breaks, but ultimately results in an absolutely coherent picture. The structure is not agreed at all, what happens in the individual sectors, and the overall result is so stirring that scene applause erupts time and time again.

Not pleasant, but understandable. Demanding but not elitist. And then funny too. The first set ends with a rhythmically breakneck fanfare, brought to the point in unison by the entire band and enthusiastically cheered on by the entire auditorium, and 20 minutes later, after everyone in the hall has ordered new drinks and exchanged the most important news the band picks up the thread again at exactly the same point in order to start a new round on their adventurous path. It’s pure enjoyment, and yes, you really should take the route over the pass more often.

Dave Douglas's New Album, 'Be Still' - The New York Times

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