Dave Douglas – UPLIFT: Twelve Pieces for Positive Action – Greenleaf GRE-CD-1068, 60:11 [11/20/18] ****:
There’s a need for a change. That’s the focus of trumpeter Dave Douglas’ hour-long UPLIFT: Twelve Pieces for Positive Action. The album—which came out in late 2018—is a reaction to current social and political situations both in this nation and overseas. As the CD title implies, Douglas wants listeners to consider how people can move forward to make optimistic transformations. Douglas explains, “The title, UPLIFT, comes from my searching for a way to NOT be negative about all the things changing in this country. Instead, the idea is to suggest concrete things that can be done on various topics and shout outs to organizations doing good work in each area.” Douglas put together a notable band to record his all-original music in December 2017, including multi-reeds musician Joe Lovano (tenor saxophone, alto clarinet, alto flute, mezzo soprano saxophone); guitarists Mary Halvorson and Julian Lage; bassist Bill Laswell; and drummer Ian Chang (who also uses electronics as part of his set-up). The twelve pieces were initially released exclusively by Douglas’ Greenleaf Music via digital subscription service. The entire program was then issued on CD (also only available on Greenleaf). This review refers to the CD.
With two guitars and two horns, there is no definitive frontline. This provides limitless musical possibilities and instrumental dialogue. Douglas and his group begin with the fluctuating “The Power of the Vote.” Lage and Halvorson’s twinned guitars mutate the melody while Douglas and Lovano create intriguing tonalities on their horns. Chang and Laswell are the rhythmic bedrock, crafting a deviating beat which is as much rhythmic as it is harmonic. The affirmative ballad, “Every Town,” reflects and echoes Douglas’ faith that constructive convictions can occur everywhere. Douglas says, “Thankfully, I’m not the only one engaged in this sort of outreach. Indeed, I hope that every artist, every individual, uses their work to shout out about positive change and activism during this year and beyond.” The belief that taking things globally is important is omnipresent during the burning, rock-fusion tune “Sharing a Small Planet,” which has a force few other bands could muster, particularly through the driving drums, potent guitars and roaring sax. There’s a modern stance which stirs through “Lift All Boats,” which might come from the aphorism that a rising tide lifts all boats and is related to the perception improvements in the general economy will benefit all participants in that economy. The atmospheric composition is highlighted by the two guitars, which offer some interesting comparison and contrast moments.
Other tracks spotlight other concerns, like ecology and nature, such as “A Tree Planted by the Rivers of Water” and the neo-jazz cut, “The Garden,” which has twists, turns and a concentrated depth which should remind some of Laswell’s other excursioner jazz/hybrid projects. There’s an ironic sense of darkness and noir-ish quality to “Truly the Sun,” where Laswell’s bass and effects supply a dimly-lit course which is juxtaposed by Douglas’ brighter and muted trumpet. The sextet’s inspiring character arises to the forefront on the closing title, the spry, delightfully melodic “Truth is Truth,” where the group’s organization and solidarity is spot-on and encompassing. With UPLIFT, Douglas proves again why he’s one of the best composers, band leaders and jazz instigators. Through his music on UPLIFT, Douglas expresses an imperative message: positive action is needed and necessary.
Dave Douglas – trumpet, producer; Joe Lovano – tenor saxophone, alto clarinet, alto flute, mezzo soprano saxophone; Mary Halvorson, Julian Lage – guitar; Bill Laswell – bass; Ian Chang – drums, electronics
The Power of the Vote
Lift All Boats
Truly the Sun
Love Is a Battle
Trail of Dreams
A Tree Planted by the Rivers of Water
Sharing a Small Planet
Shine Like the Dawn
Fear No Love
Truth Is Truth
More Information at Dave Douglas/Greenleaf’s Bandcamp Site: