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Dave Douglas: Convergence

Trumpeter Dave Douglas has rightly come to be recognized as a major player on the scene. A remarkable improviser and technical monster to boot, he is also a thoughtful and prolific composer for a number of diverse ensembles, each as provocative and challenging to both player and listener as the next. Convergence, Douglas’ third go-round with his string quintet (following Parallel Worlds and Five, also on Soul Note), reunites him with fellow virtuosos and sympathetic provocateurs Mark Feldman on violin, Erik Friedlander on cello, Drew Gress on bass and Michael Sarin on drums. Their interplay, flexibility in executing Douglas’ music and individual solo prowess marks this as one of the most noteworthy units in jazz. And yet, because they don’t rely a great deal on blue notes or emulate bebop phrasing, they are often disregarded by myopic critics as being “too European.” A bum rap, that. These are all American boys steeped in American music (hell, Feldman had a lengthy tour of duty with Tammy Wynette, for godsakes). They are as American as Mingus (another forward thinking composer uncomfortable with the term”jazz”)…minus the gospel overtones.

Like Charlie Haden, Douglas is a composer with a social conscience. His “Tzutzil Maya,” a darkly beautiful requiem written for the indigenous peoples of Chiapas, Mexico following a tragedy that left 45 villagers dead, is as powerfully evocative as Haden’s work with the Liberation Orchestra. And his “Collateral Damages,” a piece “written during the Gulf War in sympathy with the many victims on both sides,” as he states, is teeming with passion.

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