Sunday, January 03, 2016

Dave Douglas Quintet - Brazen Heart (Greenleaf Records, 2015)

When trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas was given the difficult task of composing a program of music to be played at the World Trade Center site he knew it would be a challenging. He decided that basing a group of original compositions and a couple of spirituals on the themes of love and compassion would fit the bill. This album was recorded not long after with an excellent band including Jon Irabagon on tenor saxophone, Matt Mitchell on piano, Linda Oh on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. “Deep River” and “There is a Balm In Gilead” are the traditional spirituals that are covered on the album and they are played with a sense of reverence but not stuffiness. The music on these performances is reminiscent to the hymns that Douglas performed on his 2012 album Be Still. Douglas writes that many of the other compositions on the album were inspired by the group’s travels in the United States and Europe. “Hawaiian Punch” opens things up nicely allowing space for some lengthy solos, with particularly exciting ones from Jon Irabagon on saxophone and Matt Mitchell on piano. The short and sweet “Lone Wolf” rips through the melody and short improvisation at warp speed, making for some very exciting music. “”Phyrric Apology” is one of the finest tracks on the album, building quickly to a fast tempo and keeping it there with excellent solo performances for the leader and Jon Irabagon, who has seemingly been everywhere this year, with MOPDTK, Barry Altchul, two solo LP’s and now this fine disc. The final track, “Wake Up Claire” is a very happy and upbeat finale with fine melodies and soloing and it is dedicated to Donny McCaslin who by the way will be featured in the upcoming David Bowie LP, Blackstar. So, this album worked out very well and Dave Douglas certainly achieved the goal he set for himself, by composing and creating a set of music that espoused the themes of resilience and dignity. His excellent band brought the compositions to life and helped make this a high quality mainstream jazz album. Brazen Heart -

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