The irrepressible Dave Douglas delivers another installment in the life of the Tiny Bell Trio, which features his own inimitable trumpet style, but the rhythmic invention of Jim Black on drums, and Brad Shepik's emotionally vulnerable yet volatile guitar playing. Where previous Tiny Bell outings have focused on the possibilities for texture, dynamic, and atmospheric possibilities within a given compositional structure, Songs for Wandering Souls places its eye firmly on group execution this set of compositions -- all but two of which are by Douglas, the others arranged by him especially for this of his many groups. The disc opens with "Sam Hill," a beautiful "song," where the lead "call" voice is carried by Douglas, but its "response" is in the lyrical flow of Shepik's string interplay. Theme and melody are stated repeatedly throughout the piece, and soloing is kept to merely three or four measures, but it's enough. The tenderness and empathy that these musicians, especially Jim Black's approach to "song," is nothing less than emotionally moving. Elsewhere, on "Loopy" -- with Black leading a kind of rhythmic chant for Shepik to play the melody from, which starts from the inside out, seemingly, and Douglas chiming in on the last note -- the band plays for seven minutes on the off-kilter side of the three different harmonic structures present in the composition. It swings, easily, lightly, and with enough grace to make the listener forget its odd stylistic attributes. The deep listening this band plays with is truly remarkable. Each tune swings, dances, and shimmies with the skill and enthusiasm this band shows toward lyrical improvising, and turn-on-a-pin attention to compositional detail, dynamic, and the value of a fragment to solo in. The cover of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Breath-A-Thon" is noteworthy because it was originally a solo piece, here reconstructed for the entire trio. The modal invention here, and the melodic sentiment in Kirk's original, come shining through here, as well as his warm sense of humor. Songs for Wandering Souls is a truly wonderful installment in this revelatory band's journey. May it be long and prosperous.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek