Dave Douglas: Older dog, newer tricks

Sep 24, 2013 at 8:03 pm
Dave Douglas: Older dog, newer tricks

Born March 24, 1963, Dave Douglas is one of the most significant and eclectic jazz trumpeters around today. Douglas brings his quintet to the Clifton Center as part of his ambitious plan to tour in all 50 states to celebrate his 50th birthday. Douglas says the tour has been a big challenge to organize, as he assumed it would be when he decided to go ahead with it.

“It’s a very inspiring project — a lot of parts of the country, I’ve never been to,” he says. “It’s a real eye-opener as far as the challenges for jazz and creative music in the United States and the lack of a network for the arts. There’s also the inspiration of how much people want to hear it, when you go places you’ve never been, and how much enthusiasm and excitement there is, and that feeds inspiration back into the music for me.”

The same lineup featured on Douglas’ last two albums, Be Still and Time Travel, will join Douglas here: Jon Irabagon (saxophone), Matt Mitchell (piano), Linda Oh (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums). The two albums are quite different from one another, and Douglas observes, “I think jazz composition has to be about reimagining a way to do it every time — thinking about a new vocabulary, a new way the band can play. So I wouldn’t just make the same record twice and in the same way, even with the same personnel. I think the whole game is about: How do I infuse something new, some new spirit into this music?”

Over three decades, Douglas has kept his music fresh with a variety of approaches, from post-bop to fusion to folk-flavored. He says, “I’m not a fan of novelty for its own sake. I really believe all those records hold up on a listenability level. I’m into communicating with the audience — it’s just that I would like to not say ‘I love you’ the same exact way every time I’m in front of an audience.”

He says he works from a lot of different influences — Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis and Woody Shaw, as well as Stravinsky and Stevie Wonder and many different types of folk music. “I am a jazz musician, but if you ask me what kind of music I play, I think a lot of projects I do, some listeners might have some interesting and varied answers to that. That said, the band I’m coming with is the most identifiably ‘jazz’ group of the things I’m doing right now.”

Asked about possible similarities of his group with what’s known as “the second great Miles Davis Quintet” (with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams), Douglas responds, “I think that’s one of the central groups of post-war jazz, and a huge influence on me … In my inspiration from that group, I hope I’m bringing my own thing to it and adding to the tradition. Sometimes we’re playing lines together, and it’s not clear who’s soloing or who’s playing, and I feel like I try to write compositions that allow that to happen, (with) unusual kinds of interactions and new formulations of the way a band can play together. That’s a big, important part of the game.”

Douglas’ new quintet was the result of his “… search for a band to play the hymns on Be Still, and also around some composing challenges. The players are younger, so there’s a different sort of vocabulary. Also, there’s a lot of push and pull on a very high level — rhythmically, harmonically and melodically.”

Part of the identity of a band, he says, is the combination of different personalities — sometimes in competition, sometimes in harmony. “I like that there’s an element of competitiveness or striving within the band. It’s a new way of playing for me; it’s different than the old quintet … but the individuals in the band are all co-responsible for that.”

Douglas is a strong advocate of jazz education and will present a workshop at U of L’s School of Music the morning after the concert. “I think so much important work is being done in universities now, in contrast to previous eras when music was passed off on the bandstand. That passing on is (now) being done through residencies and master classes and jazz camps.”


The Dave Douglas Quintet

Sunday, Sept. 29

Clifton Center

2117 Payne St.


$10-$18; 7:30 p.m.