Although Dave Douglas is credited as leader, Sanctuary is not just an album of him supported by a backing band. Instead, Douglas plays as equal member in a project of standout musicians. Team work is the theme; live performance is the key. Each CD is a nonstop recording of a different August 1996 show at N.Y.C.'s Knitting Factory. Heard is the great interplay between Douglas, Cuong Vu, and Chris Speed as their horn conversations intermittently get animated and peak, then settle back within the band. The sampling -- provided by Anthony Coleman and Cibo Matto's Yuka Honda -- playfully interacts with the rest of the music on disc one. Throughout "The Lethe" and "Dark Wood," for example, the sampling provide humor and thrills, interjecting into the music like zoo animals spontaneously joining in visitors' conversations! During "Dome" and "Heavenly Messenger," the basses of Mark Dresser and Hillard Greene sound simultaneously like a creaking ship, a mournful violin, and a dress slowly zipped by another. They then follow a stair-tumbling drum solo by teaming with the samplers. At other times, the drums and basses form a simply steady rhythm section. Disc one's concert closes with sampled electronic beats running beneath slow swells and statements made by the group, sounding like a dance track played at too slow of a speed. The concert heard on disc two opens cacophonous and splurty, and stays relatively crazy until "Lantern"'s spookhouse quiet suspense. "Mad Dog" includes a terrific drum solo from Dougie Bowne. Again, the horns play tight and exciting throughout, and the samplers provide more ambience, with backwards voices and organ sounds, later adding groove-oriented beat tracks. Never guilty of carrying any style or approach for too long, the musicians keep mixing it up, yielding two excellent, well-rounded shows' worth of recordings. Part abstract space shooting, part late-night dance party, all mixed with the scratching and balladry of outside jazz, Sanctuary is a definite strong addition to any collection that values these musicians, and a good introduction to them for all adventurous listeners ready to jump right in.
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AllMusic Review by Joslyn Layne
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2