White trumpeter Dave Douglas (1963) was emblematic of the neo-traditionalist
who, far from being merely a nostalgic revivalist, actually enacts a synthesis of an entire civilization.
Backed by a string trio (violin, cello and bass), Douglas opened his career with Parallel Worlds (march 1993), an eclectic excursion into hard-bop, free-jazz and classical music via kaleidoscopes such as Parallel Worlds and For Every Action.
The more conventional line-up of the Sextet (tenor saxophonist Chris Speed, trombonist Josh Roseman, pianist Uri Caine, bassist James Genus, drummer Joey Baron) was even less conventional in its interpretation of the jazz tradition on In Our Lifetime (december 1994), dedicated to Booker Little, particularly the stuttering 17-minute Bridges, the post-modernist Four Miniatures After Booker Little and In Our Lifetime (the latter with bass clarinetist Marty Ehrlich).
The Sextet's second chapter, Stargazer (december 1996), was dedicated to Wayne Shorter, recreating his haunting atmospheres in Goldfish and Intuitive Science while indulging in sinister cacophony in Four Sleepers.
Tiny Bell Trio (december 1993) inaugurated a collaboration with guitarist Brad "Shepik" Schoeppach and drummer Jim Black devoted to the integration of Balkan folk music and jazz improvisation. Their world-jazz fusion matured on Constellations (february 1995), a more overtly political work in the vein of Charlie Haden (Maquiladora, Hope Ring True).
Zeno was the centerpiece of Live In Europe (april 1997).
By the Trio's third chapter, Songs for Wandering Souls (december 1996),
the fusion was becoming formulaic (Songs for Wandering Souls).
Five (august 1995) was the debut of yet another project, the String Group, featuring violinist Mark Feldman, cellist Erik Friedlander, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Michael Sarin. Its programmatic nature was embedded in the dedications: the 13-minute Actualities for Woody Shaw, Over Farrell's for John Cage, Mogador for John Zorn, etc.
In 1994 Douglas started contributing to John Zorn's various projects.
The effect could be heard on the double-CD live Sanctuary (august 1996), a chaotic (not merely eclectic) creative set with tenorist Chris Speed, trumpeter Cuong Vu, bassists Mark Dresser and Hilliard Greene, and drummer Dougie Bowne providing the pseudo-jazz fuel while Anthony Coleman and Cibo Matto's Yuka Honda derailed the sound on samplers (Apparition, Heavenly Messenger, The Lantern).
The versatile Douglas used different quartets for different (albeit humbler) purposes.
Music Triangle (may 1997), with tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist James Genus and drummer Ben Perowsky, was truly a jazz album, exploring the continuum from hard bop to free jazz. The same line-up cooked up Continental Divide on the more daring Leap Of Faith (september 1998).
Charms of the Night Sky (september 1997) and A Thousand Evenings (cotober 2000), both recorded by a drum-less quartet with Guy Klucevsek on accordion, Feldman on violin and Greg Cohen on bass, marked one of his eccentric detours, blending Eastern European folk music, chamber music and post-modernist jazz.
Moving Portrait (december 1997), by another harmless quartet (with pianist Bill Carrothers, Genus and drummer Billy Hart) and dedicated to singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, was rather impressionistic by his wild standards (Moving Portrait and Romero).
The String Group's Convergence (january 1998), replacing Dresser with Drew Gress, summarized all of Douglas' experiments via morphing pieces such as the 13-minute Goodbye Tony and the 16-minute Meeting at Infinity.
The Sextet returned with Soul on Soul (september 1999), dedicated to Mary Lou Williams and including the refined Multiples.
Sanctuary's futuristic program was continued on the ambitious political concept Witness (december 2000), scored for an electro-acoustic chamber ensemble (Douglas, Speed, Roseman, Feldman, Friedlander, Gress, Sarin, vibraphonist Bryan Carrott, tuba player Joe Daley, electronic percussionist Ikue Mori and Yuka Honda on sampling). The 24-minute Mahfouz included a spoken-word piece by singer-songwriter Tom Waits. It basically combined the String Group, the Charms of the Night Sky, half of the Sextet and a bit of Sanctuary.
The Charms of the Night Sky was also the core of the ensemble for the dance score El Trilogy (premiered in june 2000), structured in three multi-part suites (Groove and Countermove, Weather Invention, Rapture to Leon James) and closer in spirit to the classical avantgarde than to the jazz avantgarde.
A New Quintet (Potter, Caine, Genus, drummer Clarence Penn) debuted on The Infinite (december 2001), that contained covers of pop musicians as well as extended originals in a jazz-rock vein such as Penelope.
Strange Liberation (january 2004) added guitarist Bill Frisell to the quintet.
The Miles Davis influence was even stronger on the New Quintet's third album, Meaning and Mystery (february 2006), notably in Culture Wars.
The fusion element wed to Sanctuary's electronic sound permeated
Freak In (september 2002), with Traveler There Is No Road,
featuring Speed, Sarin, Baron, Ikue Mori, saxophonist Seamus Blake, guitarist Marc Ribot, electronic keyboardist Jamie Saft and electric pianist Craig Taborn.
A smaller electronic combo (saxophonist Marcus Strickland, Saft, turntablist Gregor "DJ Olive" Asch, bass and drums) crafted Keystone (may 2005), dedicated to silent-cinema star Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle.
In 2003 a new acoustic quintet called Nomad (saxophonist/clarinetist Michael Moore, cellist Peggy Lee, tuba player Marcus Rojas and drummer Dylan van der Schyff) premiered the suite Mountain Passages (june 2004), to be performed at high altitude only, a work that focused on textural and melodic interplay.
Spirit Moves (2009) debuted Dave Douglas'
Brass Ecstasy, featuring
Luis Bonilla (trombone), Vincent Chancey (french horn), Marcus Rojas (tuba)
and Nasheet Waits (drums), a tribute of sorts to Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy.
It was followed by the live United Front (august 2010) and by
Three Views (january 2011), a three-disc set collecting: 1) Rare Metals, an informal studio follow-up to the live United Front, utilizing the same personnel;
2) Orange Afternoons
(march 2011), containing
six new Douglas compositions for a quintet with Ravi Coltrane (sax), Vijay Iyer and Linda Oh (both on piano) and Marcus Gilmore (drums);
and 3) Bad Mango
performed with the So Percussion group, i.e. Eric Beach (estey organ, Ableton, musical saw, toys, metronomes, shruti box, crotales), Adam Sliwinski (marimba, toys, concert bass drum, glockenspiel), Jason Treuting (drumset, melodica, deskbells) and Josh Quillen (korg synthesizer, vocoder, kick drum, snare drum, ride cymbal).
The nine-part suite A Single Sky (2009)
featured the Frankfurt Radio
Big Band conducted by Jim McNeely.
The idea of Keystone was reprised on
Expand (2010) and
a trilogy dedicated to Bill Morrison’s film Spark of Being.
Douglas played trumpet and laptop, Marcus Strickland tenor sax, Adam Benjamin Fender Rhodes, DJ Olive turntables and laptop, Brad Jones bass and Gene Lake drums.
His quintet (saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda
Oh and drummer Rudy Royston) recorded the ballad concept
Be Still (april 2012) and
Time Travel (april 2012).
El Trilogy (2013) consists of soundtracks composed in 1999-2000
for the dance company of Trisha Brown
(Douglas on trumpet, Mark Feldman on violin, Guy Klucevsek on accordion, Greg Cohen on bass, Greg Tardy on clarinet & tenor sax and Susie Ibarra on drums).
A quartet featuring veteran Canadian saxophonist Chet Doxas, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Jim Doxas recorded the Giuffre tribute album Riverside (september 2012).
The new Dave Douglas Quintet, featuring singer Aoife O'Donovan, Jon Irabagon, Matt Mitchell, Linda Oh, and Rudy Royston, debuted on Be Still (2014).
Present Joys (december 2013) documents a collaboration between Dave Douglas and Uri Caine
The electronic project High Risk, documented on
High Risk (october 2014) and Dark Territory (october 2014),
featured Jonathan Maron on electric and acoustic bass, Mark Guiliana on electric
and acoustic drums, and beatmaker Shigeto (Zach Saginaw) on electronics.
Blue Buddha (february 2015) featured Bill Laswell (bass), Tyshawn Sorey (drums) and tenorist Louis (or Louie) Belogenis.
The Dave Douglas Quintet
featuring Matt Mitchell (piano), Rudy
Royston (drums), Jon Irabagon (tenor sax) and Linda Oh (bass)
Brazen Heart (february 2015).
Fabliaux (march 2014) collaboration with the Monash Art Ensemble (eight reeds, two strings, plus drums, contrabass, electronics, guitar, piano and electric piano).
A quartet with Frank Woeste on piano & Fender Rhodes, Matt Brewer on bass and Clarence Penn on drums recorded the Dada tribute Dada People (january 2015).
A trio with Bill Laswell on bass and Hideo Yamaki on drums recorded
The Stone (april 2016), with the 36-minute Ankoku Kaiju,
and The Drawing Center (august 2016).