Dave Douglas, Time Travel
Trumpeter-composer Dave Douglas turned 50 last month and remains one of the most exciting and versatile musicians in jazz. Time Travel (on his own Greenleaf Music label) is his 40th album in 20 years as a leader. And, as has often been the case, it's a brash departure from his previous record, even though the bandmates are (with one exception) the same.
That last album, Be Still (reviewed here last fall) was a pensive collection of spirituals, with a singer on several tracks (a first for Douglas, not repeated here: that's the one exception). Time Travel is raucous, uptempo, head-spinningly intricate. Influences range from Monk and Miles to noir and New Orleans, but what's really going on here is a power-drive down Dave Douglas Memorial Laneyou hear strands and echoes of his own incredibly serpentine musical path. This is the "time travel" of the title, prompted perhaps by the big 5-0, which puts many in a retrospective mode.
I especially hear the influence of Masada, John Zorn's great quartet of the '90s, in which Douglas shared the front line. The influence isn't so much in the nature of the music but in the approach: its mix of improvisation and structure. And here, with the Time Travel Quintet, Douglas has a sympatico partner in tenor saxophonist Jon Irabagon; the two weave in and out of each other's solos, or the melody and harmony of a tune, with controlled abandon. The rhythm section provides a suspenseful balancing act: drummer Rudy Royston egging on the adventure with zestful polyrhythms, pianist Matt Mitchell charting the course, and bassist Linda Oh holding down the anchorbut it's an ever-moving anchor. (Oh is a phenomenon; go see her in a club sometime, if you can.)
Once again, Joe Ferla recorded and mixed, Mark Wilder mastered. The sound isn't as drop-dead gorgeous as Be Still, but it's remarkably vivid: tonally true, crisp dynamics, and layers of depth. There's no LP pressing, as there was for Be Still, but there is a high-rez download available from Douglas' website and from HDTracks.com.