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Dave Douglas.

Dave Douglas.

John Rogers for NPR/johnrogersnyc.com

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It's one thing to say that Dave Douglas is prolific. In the last 10 years, the prominent trumpeter and composer has released at least 15 proper albums under his own name — two this past year — while following muses as far-flung as Balkan music, Lester Bowie, silent films and Bjork. But beyond his restless creative energies, Douglas is truly busy. He holds high-profile teaching residencies. He directs a jazz festival every year. He tours constantly. He runs an independent record label. More and more, a leading voice on his instrument is becoming known as a public advocate for jazz and improvised music at large.

But there was a pleasingly direct feel to Douglas' December 2009 week headlining the Village Vanguard. For one, he's back with his most popular ensemble: The Dave Douglas Quintet will perform new music, including arrangements of Douglas' first work for big band. WBGO and NPR Music was there for a live broadcast and video webcast of the opening set on Wednesday, Nov. 9. The recording will be made available as an MP3 podcast download here, and as a full-quality FLAC download at Greenleaf Music.

About that big-band piece: Sections of the "Delighted States" suite appear on Douglas' newest album, A Single Sky, recorded with arranger Jim McNeely and the Frankfurt Radio Bigband. (The record also features adaptations of earlier Dave Douglas quintet pieces for large ensemble.) Here, though, the quintet alone went at these compositions ("The Presidents" and "Blockbuster"), plus other compositions — music that's "somewhat freer, but also more intricate rhythmically," Douglas writes. A group of world-beating artists it was, too: gripping soloist Donny McCaslin on tenor saxophone, rock solid James Genus on bass, restlessly creative Clarence Penn on drums and Live at the Village Vanguard alum Uri Caine on a brilliant acoustic piano — a switch from Fender Rhodes, his customary axe with this band. Douglas, too, displayed why he became such a prominent trumpeter in modern jazz.

It's not often that Dave Douglas isn't top or co-billing on a project, but two of his most important early bandleaders were Horace Silver and John Zorn, which lends some insight into Douglas' range of stylistic interests. Since the early '90s, he's led multiple ensembles in myriad different aesthetic directions. And, of course, he's also taken on more responsibilities in the intervening years: starting Greenleaf Music, directing the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, curating the Festival of New Trumpet Music and so forth.

It's also coming up on 10 years of the Dave Douglas quintet, in one form or another. In returning to the Village Vanguard, he brought a beloved band back to its New York home base after time honing new material in Europe.

Set List
  • "Handwritten Letter"
  • "Bridge To Nowhere"
  • "The Law Of Historic Memory"
  • "The Presidents"
  • "Variable Current"
  • "Blockbuster"
  • "War Room"
Personnel
  • Dave Douglas, trumpet
  • Donny McCaslin, tenor saxophone
  • Uri Caine, acoustic piano
  • James Genus, bass
  • Clarence Penn, drums
Credits
  • Josh Jackson, producer and host
  • David Tallacksen, mix engineer
  • Josh Webb, recording assistant
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