Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dave Douglas Quintet - Be Still (Greenleaf, 2012)

Be Still marks a unique point in the canon of trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas. Consisting mostly of hymns that were played at his late mother's memorial service, the music has a delicate and ethereal quality that is sombre yet never maudlin or morose. Joining Douglas on this album are Linda Oh on bass, Jon Irabagon on alto saxophone, Matt Mitchell on piano, Rudy Royston on drums and vocalist Aoife O’Donovan. The music grabs attention right away with O’Donovan’s vocals floating mysteriously and weaving through the opening “Be Still.” She gets a chance to show her bluegrass chops on “High on the Mountain” singing around a loping, bounding groove. The instrumental playing on the overtly religious material is appropriately reverential as on “God Be With You” and “This is My Father’s World” where the band paints shades and textures that support and frame the vocals. There are a few instrumental tracks, particularly “Middle March” where the band gets to step out a little bit while “Whither Must I Wander” returns the music to a slow and longing feel. This was an intensely personal project for Dave Douglas, and it’s a singular entry in his catalog. The arrangement of voice and quintet works quite well, making for an elegant and fragile album.Be Still -

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