Dave Douglas

Leap of Faith

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Fans of the acclaimed trumpeter Douglas should take refuge in the fact that this recording is not based on a concept, a tribute, or a particular etched-in-stone, long-time working group. This is Douglas with friends -- tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist James Genus and drummer Ben Perowsky -- simply making some of the leader's most challenging original music yet. Each selection is unique unto itself; each is boldly italicized, chameleonic in nature, and completely unpredictable. "Caterwaul" sets this amazing tone with staggered phrases that stop, start, stop again, rev up swing, and stop -- quirky like a telegram's format. Time shifts and constantly changing motifs and themes identify "Guido's High Note," settling into a midtempo swing on the bridge, but apt to change directions on a second's notice. A scattered melody for "Igenous" (note the edited "n") leads to harder bop and back, while the solid, abject, abstracted free bop of "Euro Disney" suggests "Three Blind Mice" scurrying about. Douglas perfectly expresses his dour side in "Another Country," while an implied tango informs "Mistaken Identity." On "Continental Divide" everything remains under the surface until a much more pronounced ending where the foursome meet at a counterpoint. This band can improvise as exhaustively and exhilaratingly as some listeners prefer: the quick, hard swing of the title cut; the trumpet squawking and chattering back and forth in conversational modes; the cowbell rattles and tenor pokes on the shorty (just over one minute) "Emmenthaler"; and the funky underpinnings and palpable urgency on "Millennium Bug" all give evidence to their improvisational skills. They can also go the patient, soulful route, as they do with the hymnal waltz shades of "Western Haiku," where a little humor goes a long way, especially from Douglas tickling the quote from Monk's "I Mean You" in a Lester Bowie-like fashion. Listeners with attention spans that allow them to focus on this heady brand of creative modern jazz will easily hear this as one of many triumphs concocted by Douglas in the '90s. This collaboration is among his better team efforts. Highly recommended.

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