“…one of the most adventurous sonic explorers in music today…” -NY Newsday
“…the most significant figure in jazz…” -Pittsburgh Tribune Review
Tuesday, March 10, 2009 — On Tuesday, June 16, 2009, two-time GRAMMY Award-nominated jazz trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas will release Spirit Moves, his first studio album in three years and the debut recording of his project Brass Ecstasy. Featuring Douglas alongside Luis Bonilla (trombone), Vincent Chancey (French horn), Marcus Rojas (tuba) and Nasheet Waits (drums), Spirit Moves is set for release on Douglas’s own Greenleaf Music Label. Interviews and photos are available upon request.
Internationally recognized as one of today’s most prolific trumpeters and composers, Dave Douglas undoubtedly ranks amongst the top contemporary maestros in American music. He has earned lavish awards including trumpeter, composer, and jazz “Artist of the Year” by such organizations as the New York Jazz Awards, Down Beat, Jazz Times, JAZZIZ, and the Italian Jazz Critics’ Society. In 2005, he was honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship, and after a successful recording career with Bluebird/RCA, Douglas continues to exclusively release his original music via Greenleaf Music.
Over the past several years, Douglas has steadily honed his work with Brass Ecstasy with appearances at the 2008 Chicago Jazz Festival, which commissioned new music from the group, Willisau Festival, Reggio Calabria Jazz Festival, and The Festival of New Trumpet Music. Douglas introduces Spirit Moves as he pays homage to the brass instrument with eight new original compositions and three arrangements of classics by such disparate artists as Otis Redding, Hank Williams and Rufus Wainwright. Informed by the evolving spirit of brass music and by his multi-faceted career as the director of The Festival of New Trumpet Music, label head of Greenleaf Music, a renowned composer and artist, and record producer, Douglas pens an ambitious collection of lyrical songs with impressions of folk, pop and soul music. Spirit Moves unveils an idiosyncratic elegance in Douglas’s indelible writing with performances by today’s great brass players.
Brass Ecstasy captures a distinct cohesiveness and ease on Spirit Moves, as if it were the final set in a weeklong residency at the Jazz Standard in New York City. Recorded in a single room, Spirit Moves forsakes tradition with each player redefining their role while embracing divergent themes to amass a full brass ensemble sound. Douglas is known for carefully selecting artists for his ensembles. On Spirit Moves, the right line-up affords an opportunity to place each player in unforeseen situations where years of dialogue between the players shines with spontaneous brilliance. Brass Ecstasy’s compositional adaptability, and voyage in discovering innovative approaches to recorded music, is essentially the backbone of Spirit Moves.
An arsenal of elements constructs the overall feel of Spirit Moves. Depending on the track, Douglas might be the feature, a select player might take the lead, or the entire ensemble might be highlighted. Each tune carries individual character. Songs shift in tempos and in lengths, moods and genres. The opening track, “This Love Affair” by Rufus Wainwright, stands as a longtime favorite of Douglas’s. He has previously covered Wainwright (“Poses,” The Infinite) and notes him as one of the greatest contemporary songwriters. Brass Ecstasy takes this dirge and rings every salty tear from the nooks and crannies of the piece. “Orujo,” which refers to the clear Spanish brandy, marks one of the album’s standout successes. An explicit collective achievement, “Orujo” culminates with elaborate interweaving parts and improvisation of counterpoint, while staying within the form of the tune. Douglas comments, “It’s easy to lose the fact that there’s only a tuba and three horns on top.”
“The View From Blue Mountain” alludes to the bittersweet sight of Indian Point Energy Center from Blue Mountain Reservation in New Jersey. Close to where Douglas resides, Blue Mountain serves as a refugee from the fast-paced city. A romantic piece pierced by dark undertones, it points to the proximity of the three-unit nuclear power plant in relation to Manhattan (just 24 miles north of NYC). “Twilight of the Dogs” is a song of elation and sadness tinged with celebration. Inspired by the current transitional state of the U.S., “Twilight” sets forth a beautiful ballad of the times with heartfelt melodic lyricism.
Tracks five through seven are dedicated to three great trumpeters: Lester Bowie, Enrico Rava and Fats Navarro. While Douglas scribed material for the 2008 Chicago Jazz Festival, “Bowie” surfaced as an appropriate fit to acknowledge Bowie’s legendary work with the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Abundant with buoyant harmony, swift comedic passages and diversifying changes, “Bowie” features the collective’s singular horn interplay masterfully supported by drummer Nasheet Waits. One of Douglas’s top picks, Waits is a shining example of the influential role drummers play in orchestrating modern jazz. Much of the sonic palette on Spirit Moves is directed by his craftsmanship.
Upon a chance encounter with Enrico Rava at the Roccella Ionica Festival in Calabria, Italy last summer, Douglas sculpted “Rava” after an inspiring late-night hang session with the credited trumpeter, in which Rava spoke of his first concert seeing Miles Davis and Lester Young together in the early ‘50s. Douglas confidently takes the lead on “Rava” as he opens the piece with just Rojas and Waits, setting a somber tone before he invites a delicate harmony from Bonilla and Chancey. The song for Fats, simply titled “Fats,” was composed so the band would intentionally seem much bigger than a quintet. Each musician switches between playing rhythm, melody and harmony, resulting in an arrangement reminiscent of a straight Monk tune. Douglas comments, “This is one where having Bonilla and Chancey was so crucial. Having spent a lot of years in Lester Bowie’s band, they have a unique affinity of how horn parts of this nature can come together.”
Another piece commissioned for the Chicago Jazz Festival is “The Brass Ring.” Encapsulating a feeling of pursuit and afterglow following a victory, its pensive mood acknowledges that even when triumphant there is still so much more to accomplish. Waits opens “The Brass Ring,” which is succeeded by tightly composed horn lines. As the piece progresses, it begins to breathe with Douglas swinging atop three-part horn harmony and rockin’ drums. Douglas confesses that Otis Redding’s “Mr. Pitiful” features “one of the great horn lines in all of pop music.” “Mr. Pitiful” is one of the first arrangements Douglas put together for Brass Ecstasy. Douglas notes, “I tend to gravitate towards all the tragic pop songs when I do covers. It’s fun!”
All the members of Brass Ecstasy take the spotlight on “Great Awakening.” Recalling a strong sense of community, or being at church, “Great Awakening” climaxes with Bonilla’s soaring solo while Douglas intermittently hits it out of the park. Spirit Moves is bookended by the famous Hank Williams song, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” Douglas admits, “I’ve always loved this tune. I wanted to write an arrangement that took it to a completely different place. I could say that Gil Evans was the inspiration for this particular arrangement.”
Shying away from the too often heavy-hitting, showy, and virtuoso nature of brass music, Spirit Moves has a very different focus, one conveying the beautiful, soulful and ecstatic ways of life. After several years of showcasing much of this material to live audiences, Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy captures the essence of brass music in the 21st Century with their debut recording effort. Douglas applauds the emergence of new forms of American music and encourages utilizing the digital community as a way to directly reach music enthusiasts. An avid blogger via greenleafmusic.com and well-known digital purveyor of his live shows (posting music online within 24 hours of the performance), Douglas offers a poignant voice both compositionally and intellectually to his fanbase, and beyond. As a companion piece to Spirit Moves, Douglas will digitally release free video segments of the group recording the new album, captured by Jem Cohen (R.E.M.) and Christopher Green (Wilco). Videos will be available on greenleafmusic.com.
Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy will tour this summer in support of Spirit Moves including appearances at Jazz Standard (NYC, June 18 - 21), Ottawa Jazz Festival, Jazz Showcase (Chicago, June 26-28), Umbria Jazz (Perugia, Italy: July 18), Festival de Jazz de San Sebastian (San Sebastian, Spain: July 23), Clusone Jazz Festival (Clusone, Italy: July 24) and Angel City Jazz Festival (Los Angeles, CA: September 6).
Additional tour dates will be announced on the Dave Douglas website.
Spirit Moves (Release Date: Tuesday, June 16, 2009)
1. This Love Affair
3. The View from Blue Mountain
4. Twilight of the Dogs
8. The Brass Ring
9. Mr. Pitiful
10. Great Awakening
11. I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry