Charms of the Night Sky
The Best from a Prolific New Jazz Composer
The pianist Paul Bley tells young musicians that no matter what else they do, it's important to record themselves at least every six months. In his estimation, documenting one's music regularly is not simply useful for charting progress, but as a way to systematically foster the creation of new ideas.
The discography of composer and trumpet player Dave Douglas is an illustration of this wisdom. Since the late 1980s, the New York–based musician has written and recorded at a blinding rate. He's done ambitious full-length suites for large ensemble, multiple records with several innovative small groups (including his quintet and the Tiny Bell Trio), and explored comminglings of jazz, funk, ethnic music, and electronic loops. Almost all these feature original Douglas compositions, and many of them place him in contexts that are far from what a jazz player would consider a "comfort zone." Charms of the Night Sky is among his most unusual concoctions, a series of roaming meditations for trumpet, violin (Mark Feldman), accordion (Guy Klucevsek), and bass (Greg Cohen).
Calm and unabashedly romantic, Charms is a chamber jazz exploration of the most ethereal sort. Some of the music happens at a languid, stately tempo; "Dance in Thy Soul," dedicated to bassist Charlie Haden, finds Douglas and Feldman trading broad-toned ad-libs between the lines of a questioning theme. Klucevsek's accordion provides instant wistfulness, a quality Douglas exploits on tunes like "Sea Change," which is a slow waltz you might imagine hearing outside a Paris café. As with other Douglas projects, the combination of instruments and textures provides a general framework. From there, it's up to the other musicians to fill in the details. This they do not as scientists mapping the positions of the stars, but as impressionist painters seeking to convey, in delicate and almost imperceptible shades, the awesome aura of the night sky.
Released: 1998, Winter & Winter
Key Tracks: "Sea Change," "Little One," "Dance in Thy Soul."
Catalog Choice: Strange Liberation; Freak In
Next Stop: Uri Caine: Live at the Village Vanguard
After That: Pachora: Unn
Book Pages: 234–235