Wednesday, March 02, 2005

An Evening with Nomad

Dave Douglas Posted by Hello

Tonight was a much needed dose of live music for refueling the HurdAudio machine. And whenever Dave Douglas brings one of his gazillion bands to town I make a point of checking it out. This evening it was his most recently recorded group: Nomad playing at The Triple Door.

Trumpet master and so-called "brainy musician" Dave Douglas is one artist I've been focused on for some time now. He is prolific and I suspect he will be more so now that he's running his own recording label.

Nomad is a great synthesis of his prior work. He consistently works with great improvising musicians (and often brings my attention to some great players in the process). After raving about Marcus Rojas' rockin' tuba work in prior blog I was delighted to see that he is a member of Nomad. The rest of the band was new to me: Myron Walden on reeds, Rubin Kodheli on cello and Tyshawn Sorey on drums.

The music and arrangement style sounded like a cross between Parallel Worlds (partially because that group also had five members) and Charms of the Night Sky.

Kodheli's cello was a revelation to my ears. He drew so much sound out of that instrument whether he was sawing, strumming or straight out jamming on those four strings. The interplay between the tuba and cello as accompanying parts was particularly pleasant.

Tyshawn Sorey's drumming style is a nice fit for this group. I liked the ease he would disassemble parts of the kit as he was playing or how he would casually retrieve dropped sticks or cymbals as he was playing. Reaching over the top of the kit to supply a soft-mallet drum roll on the head of the bass drum made for a nice sonic and theatric touch.

The crowd at the Triple Door didn't show Myron Walden nearly enough love. Good sax solos are taken for granted while it's easy to "give it up" for the relative novelty of a quality tuba or cello solo. But I was hearing some thoughtful solo work that was better than good. I'd really love to hear more of his creative ideas in multiple settings.

And if you've got Marcus Rojas in your band you have to have a funky number to really show him off. With an expressive range of traditional and extended tuba technique Rojas is a tremendous showman. Using the daunting size of the instrument as an amplifier Rojas would growl, laugh, sing or even physically strike the bell to great effect. These gestures had a blues quality to them that made them more substantive than novel. He can also blow a nice big tone.

Dave Douglas is one of the great band leaders of this era. He's also a significant part of what has to be a golden age of jazz trumpet players. These compositions for Nomad retain his characteristic fluidity between through-composed and improvised parts into seamless arrangements. They also feature a wide range of sonic textures and dynamics as these five instruments were mixed and matched into multiple configurations over the course of the evening.

Douglas also proved to be quite the story teller. He was more talkative than I remember him from previous gigs. Perhaps he needed to buy time for Rojas to rest up between numbers. The stories and background for these pieces were a nice touch.

No comments: