Label/Year: Greenleaf Music, 2017
Lineup - Dave Douglas: trumpet; Chet Doxas: saxophone and clarinet; Steve Swallow: electric bass; Jim Doxas: drums.
American trumpeter Dave Douglas has left an indelible trace of respectful music throughout a career that spans almost 20 years. An outgoing posture makes him one of those fearless musicians who are not afraid to experiment new musical concepts.
Whereas last year, we could hear him with an exciting quartet co-led by pianist Frank Woeste or trying new currents with his futuristic High Risk Quartet, now he returns to Riverside, a quartet he co-leads with Canadian saxophonist Chet Doxas, a Juno award nominee. Rounding out the band is a pair of rhythm technicians from different generations: veteran electric bassist Steve Swallow and Chet’s brother, Jim Doxas, on drums.
The New National Anthem is their sophomore album to be released on the trumpeter’s record label Greenleaf Music. Besides originals, predominantly composed by Douglas, the record features three compositions by Carla Bley. Two of them, the title track and “King Korn”, are short in duration with less than two minutes each, while the bohemian “Enormous Tots” carries all the creative extravagance inherent to the pianist’s musical intentions. It’s served up with snare ruffs, voice calls, electrifying melodic conductions, and a deeply reverberant intervention from Chet, whose ascending phrases are as precise as infinitesimal calculus.
Americana, a genre that the Riverside members are no stranger to, marks a vital presence with numbers like “View From a Bird” by Chet and “Il Sentiero” by Douglas. The former is bolstered by the horns' folk-tinged guidelines that rest on top of a frictionless foundation built by Swallow’s understated bass and Jim’s ambitious percussive activity. In turn, “Il Sentiero” is a ternary folk ballad whose final seconds slip out to a brief animated rodeo dance.
Compact rock pulses not only start up “Old Country”, where parallels and obliques of sax and trumpet live freely, but also “Americano”, which exults rhythmically creative improvisations over a nuanced bass pedal.
In addition to entailing undeviating trumpet-clarinet unisons, “King Conlon” modernly swings like Swallow loves to do, differing in everything from “If I Drift”, a composition by Douglas, who confidently strolls on top of a static groove right after Chet has interrupted a crystalline clarinet ostinato.
Limber is a word that fits well in the description of The New National Anthem, a richly textured work where genres are unambiguously bent with a positive collaborative effort. Even reluctant about taking risks, the band makes it genuinely graceful.
04 – King Conlon ► 07 – Enormous Tots ► 10 – If I Drift