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Dave Douglas: Leap of Faith

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Very few jazz musicians get to be media darlings-I use the term loosely-but trumpeter Dave Douglas has certainly achieved such status in the last couple of years; just a few months back he even graced the cover of this very magazine as “Artist of the Year.” It’s particularly noteworthy because he doesn’t post the kind of sales figures a star like Wynton Marsalis or Cassandra Wilson does. Furthermore, while past and present bandmates of Douglas like clarinetist Don Byron and John Zorn have enjoyed their share of the rare limelight in recent years, they both fall into a category you might call hip, controversial dilettantes; both their vivid stylistic eclecticism and outspokenness make them press naturals. Douglas doesn’t really fit this description either. There’s no question that he’s also absorbed a plethora of disparate styles and approaches over the years-including such non-jazz-related things as Hungarian folk melodies and the music of Robert Schumann-but they always appear in thoroughly assimilated, transmogrified ways. While there may be a certain freak appeal to the fact that Douglas leads about seven distinct working bands in addition to playing regularly in Zorn’s Masada and pianist Myra Melford’s The Same River, Twice, he seems to have earned his current acclaim on the actual basis of his music. His staggering ability is beyond compare; his sound is full-bodied and perfect, his extended technique remarkable.

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