Dave Douglas has a hot quintet touring the West Coast right now. I just caught their last two sets at the Jazz Bakery and their next stop is the great Yoshi's in Jack London Square in Oakland, CA. They're featuring outstanding new material from the just released Meaning and Mystery available online at Douglas's own Greeleaf label. They're also playing a healthy dose of material from both Strange Liberation and The Infinite as well. It's a mix of stellar composition combined with immensly creative improvisers with unbelievable chemistry.
Dave Douglas - trumpet
Donny McCaslin - sax
Uri Caine - Rhodes electric piano
James Genus - bass
Clarence Penn - drums
I can hear several decades of jazz tradition being respectfully refracted through the sound of this group. And these guys have a lot of fun drawing upon so much tradition and aren't afraid to change things up with rapid-fire transitions if need be. Or they'll also linger for a while on some beautiful textures as well. This is jazz with deep roots and a progressive edge. The bell-like timbres of the electric piano adds a great color to the overall sound. I was also struck by the rhythmic precision, intervallic leaps and spare multiphonic tones of McCaslin this evening. I'd be curious to hear what he could do in an extended solo setting where he could draw out the extremes of his sound. Clarence Penn also impressed me with his dynamic range. He's incorporated a wood block on his kit and it never popped out with that cutting sound or felt out of place.
The continuity between through-composed and improvised material is exceptional - as it often is with Dave Douglas multiple ensemble projects. With the quintet, the line delineating one from another is more obvious than with most of his other groups. But it's still a vastly satisfying blend.