Dave Douglas: Culture Wars
Dave Douglas (trumpet)
Meaning and Mystery (KOCH Records)
James Genus (bass), Clarence Penn (drums).
Composed by Dave Douglas.
Recorded: Suffern, NY, February 1, 2006
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
Donny McCaslin had Chris Potter's big shoes to fill when he joined the Dave Douglas quintet, and on the trumpeter's Meaning and Mystery CD – and especially on the track "Culture Wars" – he showed why his star was rising then and continues to do so today. At over 12 minutes in length, "Culture Wars" gave McCaslin plenty of room to display his wares.
Genus's resounding bass intro leads to Douglas's reflective rubato interlude, prior to Penn's entrance and introduction of a loose rhythmic pulse, at which point Caine's Fender Rhodes adds another welcome layer. Douglas continues on, but now blends in more fervid swirling runs. Genus maintains a throbbing ostinato as Douglas and McCaslin finally play the sustained notes of the brooding theme. McCaslin's solo inventively embellishes the melody, starting out with relatively simple elaborations that soon become increasingly complex, his extended lines vividly articulated with anxious rushes of notes and wailing outcries before a sudden subdued conclusion. With a radiant sound, Caine then delineates initially sparse phrases, but a vamp by the horns propels him to more intricate and passionate passages. The horns return to repeatedly play a key phrase of the melody, and they then engage in a contrapuntal tradeoff, theme and improvisation alternating between them. Genus's returning ostinato and a vamping Douglas and McCaslin take out the piece. "It should be obvious to anyone who has heard this quintet that I love Miles Davis," writes Douglas in his notes to the CD. This absorbing track masterfully and spiritedly evokes Miles's great quintet with Shorter, Hancock, Carter and Williams.
Reviewer: Scott Albin