Monday, June 29, 2015

Dave Douglas - High Risk (Greenleaf, 2015)

Trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas returns to a format that he has explored on a few occasions in the past, that is the melding of jazz and contemporary electronic music. Shigeto on electronics, Johnathan Maron on bass and Mark Guiliana on drums join him on this album. “Molten Sunset” opens the album with shimmering synth and trumpet and “dry” sounding drums. The bass and spinning electronics lay a foundation for the processed brass to arc overhead. There are electronic and acoustic beats front and center on “Household Item” developing a funky texture that is more adventurous except for Douglas’s trumpet which has a tone that seems quite cold, almost clinical in nature. The heavier bass sounds of “Etiquette” allow for longer smears of brass and electronics and bass over a funky drumbeat. The leader is much more lifelike and passionate here, playing a lengthy heartfelt solo against rattling drums that Guiliana turns into a fine spotlight segment of his own. After a very short trumpet and electronics interlude on “First Things First,” comes the title track “High Risk” where there is low, almost mournful trumpet in the beginning. Subtle beats and bass pick up the pace with glimmering electronics, allowing room for bass, drums and trumpet to ride the thermals of the music. Douglas develops laser sharp jabs of sound that slice through the noise and the drumming pushes the music forward more rapidly. Guiliana is epic on this record and he leaves everybody behind him on this track with violent but precise solo and support playing. There is dreamy trumpet against a pastel backdrop on “Tied Together” where the trumpet sounds a little more emotional and engaged than on some of the other tracks. Shiny electronics envelop the other instruments but the tinkling background seems a little out of place. Douglas makes haste to rectify this with a well paced solo which is drawn out beautifully. Finally, “Cardinals” builds from a mysterious electronic vibe through long tones of trumpet that can’t help but recall In a Silent Way, although the beats are more pronounced. Subtle and understated bass enter the mix and it isn’t until the very end of the piece that everyone comes together to form a unified band. This was a very up and down and inconsistent album. The title is ironic because Douglas has made much riskier music in the past on albums like Witness and Freak In. What really could have helped flesh out the music would have been another musician on the front line. A saxophonist like Chris Potter or Marcus Strickland would have filled out the music and would have given Douglas a foil to play off against. High Risk -

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