Thursday, May 25, 2023

Dave Douglas and Elan Mehler - If There Are Mountains (Greenleaf Records / Newvelle Records, 2023)

Dave Douglas and collaborators create a thoughtful and patiently constructed album where clear, well developed compositions meet considerate and attentive playing to considerable success. The band consists of Douglas on trumpet, Elan Mehler on piano, Dominique Eade on vocals, John Gunther on saxophone, clarinet, and bass clarinet, Simón Willson on bass, and Dayeon Seok on drums. Eade in particular has a beautiful, classically "jazzy" voice, taking her time with the poems and haikus that Douglas and Elan Mehler have set to original music. This is professional, adult music with nothing to prove, where the melodies and themes are brief and thoughtful, and the solos are pithy and concise. The music grabs attention right away, with Eade’s vocals articulated clearly and weaving through the opening "If There Are Mountains," setting the tone for the rest of the album. The arrangement of voice and quintet works quite well, making for an elegant and refined album. Gunther's playing is also noteworthy, gracefully moving between saxophone and clarinet, swooping unexpectedly over rolling drum accents as the whole band comes together with excellent interplay. His light and hollow-sounding clarinet and Douglas's punchy brass push forward the music, bringing a sense of drama and intrigue to the proceedings. This was quite a personal project for Mehler, who stated in the liner notes that he had wanted to work with Douglas for some time, and it marks a successful entry in both men's catalogs. If There Are Mountains -

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