Trumpeter Dave Douglas always has lots of bands and projects on the front or backburner, and this year he released three very different quintet albums originally as downloads. Now they're collected in a box set.

Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says these sessions sound even better when heard together.


KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Trumpeter Dave Douglas, with the new music quartet So Percussion, who also play electronics. It's from their collaboration "Bad Mango," one of a trio of recent Douglas sessions now collected in the box "Three Views."


WHITEHEAD: There's a nice contrast among the three quintets heard on Dave Douglas' "Three Views," sketching out some of his interests. There's no overlapping repertoire or personnel. The "Orange Afternoons" session features the elastic rhythm trio of pianist Vijay Iyer, Linda Oh on bass and drummer Marcus Gilmore. The trumpeter shares the front line with slinky tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane.


WHITEHEAD: These programs are kept short, averaging about 40 minutes each, like an LP. Dave Douglas says they're meant to recall the informal albums jazz musicians recorded in the 1950s. But these sessions don't sound like one-day quickies, no matter how fast they came together.


WHITEHEAD: The most seasoned of the three quintets in Dave Douglas's new box is Brass Ecstasy, a sort of pocket edition of the late trumpeter Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy. It even has Brass Fantasy alums Vincent Chancey on French horn, trombonist Luis Bonilla, and tuba piledriver Marcus Rojas. But this quintet has its own blend, one you can't build in a day. It's a great setting for the leader's trumpet. His ripe tone sounds gorgeous, rising out of the pack.


WHITEHEAD: Mm, Christmassy. I like the way the trio of CDs in Dave Douglas's "Three Views" set each other off. A standard jazz quintet is flanked by a session for trumpet and four percussion, and another for drums and four brass. These bands mostly play new material; one exception is Brass Ecstasy's nice reading of Billy Strayhorn's ballad "Lush Life."

There is also a deluxe edition of the box that comes with a flash drive including sheet music and video and such for the superfans. But this music stands up fine all by itself.


GROSS: Kevin Whitehead is a jazz columnist for emusic.com and the author of "Why Jazz?". He reviewed "Three Views," the new box set featuring trumpeter Dave Douglas with three different quintets on the Green Leaf music label. Coming up, Maureen Corrigan presents her much-anticipated list of the best books of the year. This is FRESH AIR.

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