Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dave Douglas - A Single Sky (Greenleaf, 2009)

Trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas works in a variety of contexts, but rarely in the big band format. He fills in this gap in his discography with an interesting album, collaborating with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band and conductor and arranger Jim McNeely. Douglas is fascinated with American politics and social injustice, and much of this music was written during the tumultuous 2008 presidential campaign, giving it an urgent and unsettled air. "The Presidents," "Campaign Trail" and "Blockbuster" were written as a part of a large scale suite about America called "Delighted States,"and are included here along with some older Douglas compositions. "The Presidents" has a majestic slow building feel to it, as if the weight of the office is being channeled through the music. "Bury Me Standing" is a moody and deeply emotional performance, where the big band plays with great subtlety in a thoughtful and reflective performance. The highlight of the album was the title track "A Single Sky" which uses some electric piano shadings along with the extra heft of the big band to set the table for Douglas and he responds with a superb solo that is brash, exciting and full of passion. This was a consistently interesting and well done album. In an earlier day, Douglas would be able to lead a big band full time and allow his compositions and arrangements to develop over time. The heyday of the large ensemble may be gone, but projects like this indicate that this format is still fertile ground for creativity.
A Single Sky - amazon

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