Think of Miles Davis's In a Silent Way sessions with an updated "jazztronic" treatment, and you'll get the vibe of this CD by the mercurial, Grammy-nominated trumpeter Dave Douglas. He's backed by a 21st-century combo featuring saxophonist-clarinet Chris Speed, pianist Craig Taborn, and guitarists Marc Ribot and Romero Lubambo, the turnabalist Jamie Saft, and tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake. They embark on a techno-tantric--yet textured--trip through electronica and blues, steered by Douglas's horn lines. The title track is a zesty bhangra-bopped number sprinkled with remixer Karsh Kale's tablas, while "Eastern Parkway" swings with an industrial New Orleans sound. With taste and wit, Douglas manages to make even nonjazz sounds seem jazzy, something Miles Davis also did very well. --Eugene Holley Jr.
マイケルサリン ＝ドラム 名前がマル
モリ イクエ ＝エレクトロニクスパーカッション
ロメロ ルバンボ ＝ギター
ジョーイ バロン ＝ドラム
マーク リボー ＝ギター
At around this time Douglas was getting grief from Wynton Marsalis' mentor Stanley Crouch who believed in something called "real jazz." Real jazz seemed a lot like classic rock, which is music stuck in the past. Crouch and Marsalis have tried to keep the music frozen in 1965, in order to maintain the integrity of the jazz tradition. According to Crouch the praise being heaped on Douglas by mostly white critics jazz critics was undeserved.
Ten years on, the traditionalists seem to have stifled the creativity of the next generation of American musicians. Jazz used to be a popular art form, its key exponents, like Louis Armstrong or Buddy Rich, viewed themselves as entertainers. For Crouch, jazz deserves the respect accorded to classical music. However, as jazz becomes more elitist, it stops being fun, and fails to attract younger listeners. As it becomes a serious art form, it also becoimes a dying art form with an aging audience. The latest Downbeat Readers Poll shows there was only one winner below the age of 40, which is depressing. In Europe, jazz is thriving and maintaining its relevance. Musicians like Jan Garbarek have introduced influences from their own folk music. They no longer believe that jazz belongs to Americans like Crouch or Marsalis.
The band on this album is great and includes: Douglas (trumpet, keyboards), Jamie Saft (keyboards), Marc Ribot (guitar), Karsh Kale (tabla, drums), Joey Baron (drums), Romero Lubambo (acoustic guitar), Brad Jones (bass), Ikue Mori (electronic percussion), Seamus Blake (saxophone), Chris Speed (saxophone, clarinet), Craig Taborn (Fender Rhodes), Michael Sarin (drums), Stephanie Stone (vocals).
In addition to his long-standing smaller acoustic units, Douglas has become increasingly interested in larger electro-acoustic ensembles, involving samplers and drum machines as well as keyboards and electric guitars. 2001's Witness was the first such unit (other than his short-lived Sanctuary project), and this new album bears many similarities to it. But this project uses an instrument heretofore unused by Mr. Douglas... the modern recording studio.
Studio manipulation of jazz recordings goes all the way back to the post-war efforts of Charles Mingus, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Miles Davis. But where those artists merely used the studio as a creative editing tool, here Douglas uses it as both an editor and manipulator. Instruments are fed through software and processing to marvelous effect. The effect is unlike any previous album in Dave's discography.
All this may not seem terribly innovative, what with recent similar releases by Matthew Shipp, Bill Laswell, Derek Bailey, Tim Hagans and numerous others. DJ culture, drum 'n' bass and electronica have been genres of curiosity for jazz artists for quite some time now. All these explorations can be traced back to the '70s work of Miles Davis, whose influence inevitably arises on this album.
From the robotic mutant funk of "Eastern Parkway" to the frenetic drum 'n' bass workouts of the title track and "The Great Schism" to the sprightly free-bop of "The Hot Club of 13th Street", there is no lack of energy on this record. Sublime examples of Douglas' melodic writing include standout cuts like the gorgeous "Maya" and majestic "Porto Alegre". "Wild Blue" and bonus track "The Mystic Lamb" conjure an electrically inspired take on AACM-based free-jazz.
And what of Miles Davis, then? I'm sure there will be critics who will invoke the master at any turn to cajole the masses into believing this to be yet another crafty marketing ploy to sell the album in the great man's shadow. But I disagree. Sure, the influence of Miles Davis and John McLaughlin can be heard in the opening assault of "Freak In" and the nasty blues grind of "Black Rock Park". And both pieces can be traced back to roots on Miles' own Big Fun and Live/Evil albums respectively. "Traveler There Is No Road" and "The Great Schism" have their moments of Davis-inspired verve, but that is where the similarities end, and the lion's share of the album is Douglas, pure and simple.
Freak In is an incredibly diverse cross section of Douglas' writing abilities, yet it never sounds like an amateurish collage, or worse, opportunistic trend-hopping. Jazztronica some may say. I say don't believe the hype. Listen for yourself and hear the sound of the future.
(This review was originally written for the online webzine: junkmedia.org, and was published there March 14, 2003)