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April 2000

Dave Douglas
Soul on Soul: Celebrating Mary Lou Williams
RCA Victor

The music on Soul on Soul-the initial fruit of a four-album deal Douglas inked with RCA last year, its title nabbed from Duke Ellington's description of Williams-is considerably diverse. As usual, Douglas celebrates the spirit of the artist he's feting more than their specific body of work, and the diversity of the pianist's criminally underrated career can certainly be related to the trumpeter's thus-far-celebrated one. He digs back into the funky soul jazz of his first key employer, Horace Silver, on "Blue Heaven," recalls the music of his first sextet tribute subject, Booker Little, on "Ageless," delves into some beautiful horn-only chamber-like music on "Eleven Years Old"-played by Douglas, trombonist Joshua Rosemen and tenor player Chris Speed-and showcases his flair for discreet, multi-part tunes on "Moon of the West," with an excellent note-piling stride section contributed by pianist Uri Caine.

The group tackles four Williams compositions, imbuing the stride-heavy vignette "Aries" with some lovely swing horn parts, and taking the key-shifting blues "Play It Momma" as a lean hip-swaying jam, with drummer Joey Baron playing his drum kit like a set of congas. It's a wonderful album and perhaps the first where Douglas reveals his fluency with earlier jazz idioms, although there's nothing retro about his playing. Like Williams he's well ahead of the pack; the fact that people are paying attention is icing on the cake.

Originally published in April 2000
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