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Dave Douglas/Louis Sclavis/Peggy Lee/Dylan van der Schyff: Bow River Falls

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From the Banff Workshop and its 2002 director, Dave Douglas, comes Bow River Falls, an appropriately bare, spacious quartet performance actually recorded inside the Canadian national park. Banff has its own recording studio? Who knew? For the rhythm section, Douglas recruited Pacific Northwesterners: drummer Dylan van der Schyff, who also contributes with his laptop, and cellist Peggy Lee. Thanks to some timely cash from the French government, Douglas was able to complete the band with reedist Louis Sclavis.

Steve Lacy’s “Blinks” opens the CD-appropriately enough since his dryly quirky small-group music is a source for this sort of thing. Douglas wanted to emphasize the collaborative nature of this project. Having so many distinctive composers on hand, Douglas splits the program between tunes by himself, Lee and Sclavis. It’s great fun hearing the band go at one another’s instantly recognizable themes. Lee’s music focuses on texture and serves as atmospheric interludes between Sclavis’ and Douglas’ playful, melodic music. Douglas’ delicate melodies put the band in the mood for balladry; Sclavis’ music gives the impression of having been cleverly assembled from stylistic odds and ends from the Continent and invites a bit more chaos; Lee provides an attractive solo voice and rich counterpoint; van der Schyff alternates between unvarnished swing and the touches of abstracted, naturelike sounds from his laptop (a particularly nice touch). The sly, Viennese sound of Douglas’ trumpet dominates the proceedings, however, marking this as a scaled-down, low-concept Douglas project-in spirit if not quite in name. Somewhat disappointingly, a deferential Sclavis plays the sideman’s role, saving his saltier playing for his own projects.

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