2002 (CD)

  • Dave Douglas: trumpet
  • Chris Potter: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
  • Uri Caine: Fender Rhodes
  • James Genus: bass
  • Clarence Penn: drums

His 19th album proved to be a landmark, in no small part down to the stellar line-up assembled for the set.

Recorded over three days on December 16–18, 2001 at Avatar Studios, New York City, and including three eclectic covers of tunes by Rufus Wainwright, Bjork and Mary J. Blige, Douglas explores that Miles Davis inspired gap between post-bop and fusion first heard in 1968. To some degree there is a parallel, especially in band configuration, with the second great Davis quintet, and at times you could be listening to “Miles In The Sky” and to some extent “Filles De Kilimanjaro”. Caine’s use of the Fender Rhodes is a bit of a give-away in this respect. However by the same token in terms of structure and feel there is a nod back to the “Birth of the Cool Sessions” (“Boplicity” gets referenced in the lengthy track “Penelope”), and forward to “In A Silent Way”.  Douglas can include a European feel into a lot of his work and to some extent that input stops the album from being a direct Miles pastiche.

Overall then this is a Douglas album and a clear indicator of a mammoth body of work that was to follow. Douglas brings the best out of his band and Potter is in some of his best form and the leader at his most lyrical. The three pop-tunes on the album are radically re-engineered to the extent that they feel like brand new compositions. Overall this to my mind is one of his best albums although the critical reaction was not as strong as it was for the preceding “Witness” which I always felt was too wound up in the polemical undertone of the material.

The quintet would return two years later with “Strange Liberation” and a lot of the material on the album would turn up in the mammoth 12 CD set “Live at the Jazz Standard” albeit with Donny McCaslin replacing Potter. This then is the entry point for some of his most successful work and a good place to start if his music is new to you.

Next year there would be yet another change in direction with the more fusion oriented “Freak In” demonstrating his relentless quest for new forms of expression. The only other release in 2002 was as a sideman for Patricia Barber’s “Verse” album.

Exceptional modern jazz, beautifully played which both references the history of the music but sets markers for future development.