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Dave Douglas Quintet – Brazen Heart Live at Jazz Standard – Complete 8 CD Set – [TrackList follows] – Greenleaf GRE-CD-1046 (8-CDs), 64:38, 56:03, 66:30, 59:00, 63:15, 64:24, 55:31, 62:18 [12/14/18] ****:

(Dave Douglas – trumpet; Jon Irabagon – saxophone; Matt Mitchell – piano; Linda May Han Oh – bass; Rudy Royston – drums)

Trumpeter Dave Douglas is one of the most prolific and innovative trumpeters in post-1980s modern jazz. Since 1993—when Douglas began making solo records—he has put out more than 40 albums as a bandleader and produced more than 50, including everything released by his independent label, Greenleaf Music. Douglas’ career has involved jazz, classical music, folk, electronica and klezmer via his own projects and collaborations with other musicians such as John Zorn and the SFJAZZ Collective. Douglas’ many groups include The Tiny Bell Trio, Keystone, Brass Ecstasy and the Dave Douglas Quintet. In 2007, Douglas led his quintet—Douglas, saxophonist Donny McCaslin, pianist Uri Caine, bassist James Genus and drummer Clarence Penn—for a series of performances at the famed NYC venue, the Jazz Standard. The result was a 2-CD live album and all 12 sets as digital downloads. In 2015, Douglas returned to the same club with a new quintet featuring Douglas, saxophonist Jon Irabagon (winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition), pianist Matt Mitchell (credits include Tim Berne, Steve Coleman and others), bassist Linda May Han Oh (she has performed with Pat Metheny, Steve Wilson and Billy Childs) and drummer Rudy Royston (Bill Frisell, Theo Hill, Art Hirahara, lots more). This ensemble participated in Douglas’ 2015 effort, Brazen Heart. Thus, the title of the quintet’s latest: Brazen Heart Live at Jazz Standard. The full sets (two sets per evening) from November 19-22, 2015 were taped. All nights (Thursday to Sunday) are available as a single eight-CD boxed set; each night was also separately issued as two-CD programs; all the music is also accessible as high-quality digital files. This review refers to the complete eight-CD package which came out in mid-December 2018, housed in four, slim-panel wallets with two CD pockets for each evening’s two sets, with detailed liner notes.

The 11 tunes from the 2015 Brazen Heart album can be found on Brazen Heart Live at Jazz Standard as well as a plethora of other pieces penned by Douglas, compositions from other artists and traditional material. While there is some repetition from set to set, the interpretations differ and there are tracks which are only played for one evening’s repertoire. The music’s complementary characteristics are marvelously balanced. For example, the two Thursday night sets include Douglas works such as “Hawaiian Punch,” “Miracle Glo” and “Lone Wolf,” which are offset by covers such as the Scottish ballad “Barbara Allen” and the hymn “There Is a Balm in Gilead.” Highlights of the Thursday concert include a beautiful, wonderful revision of “Barbara Allen,” which has a splendid charisma with coordinated touches which indicate the folk influence, a bit of neo-classical and the band’s modern jazz inclination. The Saturday night rendering of “Barbara Allen” has some contrasts from the Thursday adaptation: it is extended by three minutes, is looser and the tempo is faster. Another Thursday highpoint is the nearly 14-minute “Miracle Gro,” which has a skewed but swinging rhythm, absorbing interaction between piano and the horns, and a movable main theme. “Miracle Gro” can also be heard on the Saturday night set and is four minutes longer and has improvisations which are variable and diverge from the Thursday take.

Sustaining the secular disposition, the quintet does a gorgeous rendition of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ religious tune “Whither Must I Wander” on the Friday night set. The trumpet and sax layer delicate notes while the piano, drums and bass establish a refined rhythmic foundation. Mitchell is in fine form as he shifts from classical hints to jazz during his solo. The fivesome return to “Whither Must I Wander” again during the Saturday night performance, lengthening the arrangement and offering listeners the opportunity to compare the two translations. Another Friday night standout is the jumping, nine-minute, humor-laced “Beware of Doug,” from the Dave Douglas Quintet’s 2013 release, Time Travel, which also has the same band as this live recording.

Douglas’ “Hawaiian Punch” is heard on three of the four nights (it does not appear on the Sunday program). Each fan might have their favorite. The 8:32 Saturday night presentation showcases the quintet’s tightness and intricate communication. The way the bass, piano and drums crisscross is a creative apex. So are the exchanges between trumpet and sax. Another great Saturday night moment is the 9:26 “Be Still My Soul,” based on music by Jean Sibelius and arranged by Douglas. The 2012 studio cut had words and vocals by singer Aoife O’Donovan. Here, the quintet redoes “Be Still My Soul” as a stylistic instrumental, which changes from swinging sections to quieter instances.

The proceedings get somewhat more epic on the Sunday night performances. The two-part “My Cares Are Down Below/The Pigeon and the Pie” is elongated to a very immersive 21:35. “My Cares Are Down Below” was also initially done with O’Donovan on Douglas’ 2013 Pathways album. Douglas re-arranges the vocal song into a sparkling, multitiered instrumental. “The Pigeon and the Pie” (from Time Travel) is a rolling cauldron of free-thinking jazz, with Mitchell blazing an adventurous trail on his keyboard during his rambunctious improvisation. Douglas’ nearly 24-minute “Bridge to Nowhere” is equally exploratory and risk-taking. Brazen Heart Live at Jazz Standard’s 48 tracks and over eight hours of music might seem daunting to experience. Obviously, take it a bit at a time. The overall involvement is best savored like a large novel: chapter by chapter, or in this case, set by set.

TrackList:

CD 1
Thursday, 7:30
Hawaiian Punch
Miracle Gro
Barbara Allen
Lone Wolf
Going Somewhere with You
There Is a Balm in Gilead
Law of Historical Memory

CD 2
Thursday, 9:30
Ocean Spray
Time Travel
Pyrrhic Apology
Inure Phase
My Cares Are Down Below/The Pigeon and the Pie
Deep River

CD 3
Friday, 7:30
Hawaiian Punch
Little Feet
Wake Up Claire
Be Still My Soul
Brazen Heart
Whither Must I Wander?
Beware of Doug

CD 4
Friday, 9:30
Bridge to Nowhere
Variable Current
This Is My Father’s World
One Morning
Middle March
God Be with You Til We Meet Again

CD 5
Saturday, 7:30
Hawaiian Punch
Time Travel
Be Still My Soul
Brazen Heart
Whither Must I Wander?
Lone Wolf

CD 6
Saturday, 9:30
Garden State
Miracle Gro
Barbara Allen
Inure Phase
Little Feet

CD 7
Sunday, 7:30
Law of Historical Memory
Ocean Spray
This Is My Father’s World
Variable Current
My Cares Are Down Below/The Pigeon and the Pie
There Is a Balm in Gilead

CD 8
Sunday, 9:30
Bridge to Nowhere
Deep River
Wake Up Claire
Going Somewhere Without You
God Be with You Till We Meet Again

—Doug Simpson

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