Friday, August 24, 2007

Dave Douglas - Live at the Jazz Standard (Greenleaf, 2007)

In late 2006 cornetist and composer Dave Douglas performed for a week at the Jazz Standard, a club in New York City. In an innovative move, Douglas recorded each of the sets and made them available for sale on his web site. This package is a two-disc distillation of those sets, with Douglas and his band: tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, keyboardist Uri Caine , bassist James Genus and drummer Clarence Penn performing at a very high level on a wide range of original material. At the time of this recording, Douglas had recently switched from the trumpet to the cornet, and the switch benefits him with a warmer, more expressive sound. He makes light of this with a short if intense performance of "The Cornet is a Fickle Friend." The band has a very tight and unique sound, typified by "Indian Point", a lengthy improvisation that shows tight ensemble playing and pithy soloing.Caine makes his presence felt here, and throughout the sets, almost like a painter he spreads the pastel tones of the fender rhodes piano, deftly supporting hisbandmates and bubbling up for solo turns. Donny McCaslin's profile has been on the rise of late with a number of recordings as a leader, and this is a key sideman appearance in his development. He is a sympathetic partner for Douglas (as was Chris Potter before him) playing the knotty melodies well and soloing with a lot of gusto. Genus and Penn have been with Douglas for a while now and they lock in to a groove the fully supports the music throughout. Several of the performances are quite lengthy, allowing the band to really stretch out and explore. In particular "Indian Point", "October Surprise" and the twisting and turning "Magic Triangle" have really excellent performances that stand out. This is a very good live recording of an excellent band. If you didn't have a chance to check out this music via download, or just prefer a CD, this is a very good collection of modern jazz to be savored.

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