july 2009

thumbnailSPIRT MOVES
Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy

Imagine a forlorn, muted trumpet, searching bereft through the melody of Hank Williams's "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," finding untapped seams of heartache without uttering a single word. Or a sputtering, funky discourse and variation Otis Redding's "Mr. Pitiful," complete with a tuba burping away in the background. Or a high-stepping strut through "Bowie," a tribute to Lester Bowie with four horns coming at you from different directions, juking and sparring, before twice breaking into unison howls of "Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight." Welcome to Spirit Moves, the latest stimulating excursion conceived, played, and produced by the adventurous trumpeter Dave Douglas, accompanied by the Brass Ecstasy (Luis Bonilla, trombone; Vincent Chancey, French horn; Marcus Rojas, tuba, and drummer Nasheet Waits). In addition to being masters of their respective instruments, these redoubtable musicians are also skilled in the art of deception, not in the sense of pulling one over on us but in leaving us wondering how exactly they're coming at these tunes, both originals and covers (the album opens with a truly down and dirty blues reimagining of Rufus Wainwright's "This Love Affair," notable for Waits's ominous, funereal drum rolls and Douglas's bluer-than-blue trumpet waxing alternately melancholy and anguished, moaning then roaring, then settling back into the laconic groove, but always keeping a tight rein on the haunting melody). The high caliber of musicianship might raise a query as to whether a work seemingly as formal, linear and by the rules as "Fats," a warm tribute to Fats Navarro, actually might be totally improvisational, taking shape as it goes, or whether the angular, rowdy, high-spirited "Bowie" (its unpredictable directions and exciting horn interplay being a tribute to the great Art Ensemble of Chicago trumpeter, Lester Bowie) is in fact a systematically composed piece with all its avenues of expressions fully blueprinted. Based on the press material released with the album, Douglas's originals are indeed designed compositions to which he and his mates render the playful, genially competitive personality of a joyous jam session. These fellows are fine and mellow in a Miles kind of way, tuneful and swinging a la Brubeck (sans piano, even) and deeply introspective a la Mingus. When the spirit moves, it'll really get ahold of you. Beautifully realized, this. —David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024