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WEEKEND REVIEWS / Jazz Review

Douglas Quartet: Smooth, Artistic Integrations

September 18, 2000|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Trumpeter-composer Dave Douglas' performance at the Knitting Factory on Friday night capped what can best be described as a stellar week for jazz in Los Angeles. With the Sun Ra Solar Arkestra at the same venue on Tuesday and tenor saxophonist David Murray in residence at the Jazz Bakery for the week, there was ample opportunity to check out the edgier areas of the jazz arena. And the presence of Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton and Jon Faddis at the Hollywood Bowl on Wednesday night brought three of the world's finest mainstream jazz trumpeters to the same stage.

The music of the Douglas quartet (Chris Potter, tenor saxophone, Brad Jones, bass, Ben Perowsky, drums) embraced a spectrum that reached across most of those areas. And it is to Douglas' credit as a composer and leader that he managed to incorporate such a range of styles in a set of music that avoided pastiche and came across instead as a smoothly integrated, highly personal artistic expression.

Douglas' presentation of pieces such as "The Frizell Dream," "Leap of Faith," "Padded Cell" and "Circular" ranged far beyond the typical jazz theme/solo variations/theme structure. Solos were interlaced with composed segments, spontaneous improvisations suddenly surfaced through the mix, and the rhythmic flow--superbly driven by Jones and Perowsky--shifted in and out of different meters with ease and subtlety.

Douglas' trumpet work was the product of a compositional mind, his phrases--even in the most spontaneous passages--delivered via an improvisational flow that found connections and linkages, an approach far more engaging than a string of riffs, licks and virtuosic displays. At times, in fact, his playing was powerfully reminiscent of the soloing of Don Ellis, who, in the '60s and '70s, explored creative territory that Douglas is currently revisiting.

But the most surprising aspect of the set was the soloing of Potter, a solid mainstream player who moved with ease into the Douglas musical orbit, offering one extraordinary solo after another, a perfect front-line companion in one of the more compelling new jazz groups.

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