Sound Prints is tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas, along with pianist Lawrence Fields, bassist Linda May Han Oh, and drummer Joey Baron. This recording was made a few days after a weeklong run at the Village Vanguard in January of 2020, not long before the pandemic shut everything down, and not long before the tensions and contradictions that have rent American society virtually from the beginning once again tautened and became explosive enough to demand a reckoning. It’s especially appropriate, then, that the overarching theme of this set is seeking out alternate worlds where truth, beauty, and hope might still somehow reign supreme.
Most of what’s here was recorded in one take. According to Lovano, that’s standard procedure for Sound Prints, even on the bandstand; he and Douglas will imagine a thematic context, often improvised on the spot, and the others will fall in immediately, creating music that both reflects and spurs further “dialogue and interaction.” The “space” being explored here is, as much as anything, the silence between notes and between rhythmic pulses, as well as the realms of imagination the musicians navigate to discover new beauty within the vastness of that silence.
Lovano and Douglas interweave complex patterns, sometimes call-and-response, more often contrapuntal, yet each voice remains distinct and personalized. Oh’s bass lines, precise yet free-flowing, accentuate the rhythmic thrust that’s often implied more than forcibly expressed by drummer Baron’s deft polyrhythmic textures. Fields envelops his bandmates in the lush harmonic expanse of his playing, while also laying down a base to both ground them and spur them to break free and probe further.
There’s a powerful sense of ritual here, a feeling that we’re being initiated for a journey from which we might return transformed—one of music’s most ancient functions, and one of its most immediate and contemporary.