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Dave Douglas: Dark Territory

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Many jazz fans often wonder what kind of music Miles Davis would be making if he were still alive. Given that he was a musical chameleon who absorbed, internalized and expressed himself in all sorts of styles-from big band to hip-hop-anything is possible. These thoughts often come to mind when listening to Dave Douglas. The trumpeter looks forward and backward, grabbing from any genre he likes while pushing every boundary of jazz.

His latest album, Dark Territory, is essentially Part Two of 2015’s High Risk. Drawn from the same sessions, the new disc features another seven songs that pit Douglas’ stark blowing against a backdrop of electronics and electronic-style drumbeats. Featuring Jonathan Maron on electric and synth basses, Mark Guiliana on acoustic and electric drums and Zachary “Shigeto” Saginaw on electronics, the music blends jazz, rock and electronica while not actually becoming any one of them.

There are parallels between Dark Territory and the work of electronic outfits like Matmos, a Baltimore-based duo that traffics in found sounds (washing machines, liposuction). The beats, blips, pops, snaps and rumbles of “Mission Acropolis” sound otherworldly, and Douglas’ cool, remote soloing only enhances the effect. Ambient sounds whose origins are nebulous gradually form solid beats on “Let’s Get One Thing Straight,” as Douglas solos over a layer of distorted electronics and hip-hop-style drumming. The beats and random noises of the chill-out tune “All the Pretty Horsepower” hit you like a fever dream, and on “Ridge Hill” Guiliana turns to a frenetic drum-‘n’-bass pattern while Douglas augments his playing with electronic effects. “Celine” almost sounds like dance-pop-until one tries counting the time and then realizes there’s no theme, only Douglas’ soloing over an ever-changing pattern of beats and throbbing bass. One complaint: Dark Territory runs only 40 minutes. Since High Risk ran 41 minutes, this material could have been edited into a single album release.

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Originally Published