Dave Douglas: Charms of the Night Sky

Here are two very attractively packaged sets, both of which seek to expand the parameters by combining elements of different musics. Dave Douglas teams with Dave Feldman, Greg Cohen, and accordionist Guy Klucevsek on Charms to create a convincing style from elements of Hungarian, Rumanian, mussette, klesmer, tango music, and even jazz. There is, of course, no reason for this to work; the new acoustic music groups that followed in David Grisman’s wake are forever dabbling in similar cross-cultural experiments with a success rate of maybe 10%. But the musical intelligence at work here is on a far different plane. There is some high-tech blowing, but most of the music is understated to the point of nakedness, and I could write a page just about how Douglas employs his tone on this disc. Feldman has the ability to not only cover the virtuoso Hungarian gypsy fiddle style but to take it someplace.

Klucevsek’s judicious use of dissonance is a key ingredient in a compelling set that tugs at you to keep coming back. An exotic feather in everyone’s cap.

The blending of very Miles-ish jazz rock and rap is achieved with apparent ease by Thomas & Co. on Streets, though of course there isn’t a huge stylistic gulf to start with. Listening to rap never makes me very happy, but then I don’t notice it having that effect on the kids in my neighborhood, either. So I decline to judge that aspect of this release, but it would suit me fine if Thomas managed a crossover hit-I don’t get to hear such intelligent arranging, dynamic sax (the leader), biting guitar (Paul Bollenbeck), or bent organ (Thomas again) on my walks. If you like late Miles and you like rap, this disc is sure to hit the spot. If you don’t, I doubt if you’ll be converted.