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Dave Douglas & Keystone: Moonshine

Inspired by the unfinished 1917 Buster Keaton/Fatty Arbuckle comedy film Moon-shine, this collection of cutting edge, groove-oriented tunes by Douglas’s electrified, genre-bending Keystone band picks up where 2005’s Keystone left off. Recorded before a live audience at the Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray, Ireland, Moonshine features the returning cast of Gene Lake on drums, Marcus Strickland on tenor sax, Brad Jones on bass and DJ Olive on turntables, with Adam Benjamin replacing Jamie Saft on keyboards.

“Dog Star” echoes some of the spacious, mysterioso vibe of early Weather Report, circa Mysterious Traveller, while also showcasing some bravura turns by the trumpeter-bandleader. The title track is a slamming bit of funk spiced with a healthy dose of reverb on DJ Olive’s percussive turntable work. Douglas and Strickland play cat-and-mouse on top of this surging groove while Lake slams with authority underneath. Benjamin’s slightly distorted Fender Rhodes solo here adds a ’70s retro touch while Strickland’s gutsy tenor solo here is more Wilton Felder than John Coltrane. Douglas’ crackling trumpet solo on this vibrant funk anthem is outstanding.

“Married Life” is a labyrinth of tempo shifting and mood altering, colored by Olive’s psychedelic “ear cookies” flying in and out of the mix and further enhanced by Benjamin’s alternately dreamy and grunge-laden Rhodes solo. Stickland’s tenor work on a free section is probing and provocative, at times tipping into the Albert Ayler zone, while Douglas maintains a more deliberate approach in the fray. Olive’s tendencies as sonic provocateur color the atmospheric “Flood Plane” while Benjamin’s heavily effected Rhodes sets a raucous tone on the throbbing rock-fueled number “Kitten.”

“Tough,” an irrepressibly funky number (with a sly quote from “Star Eyes” in the middle of Douglas’ urgent solo) is where the band crosses over with verve into electronica/hip-hop territory. (One can picture this infectious groove being sampled by scores of beat-savvy producers). “Scopes” is a short burst of intense energy with Strickland wailing over the top of a relentless polyrhythmic pulse with fierce abandon, and Douglas delivers some of his strongest trumpet playing on “Silent Stars,” his ode to the two inspirations of this audaciously creative outing.

Originally Published