Dave Douglas Quintet Member Picks Recommended Soundboard

When: Fri., Dec. 14, 9 p.m. and Sat., Dec. 15, 8 p.m. 2012

For his fantastic new album, Be Still (Greenleaf), trumpeter Dave Douglas shook up his quintet, recruiting a lineup of young, hungry players and recalibrating its sound and repertoire. Many of the tunes on Be Still come from Douglas's mother, who died in 2011 after a three-year battle with ovarian cancer; she'd given him a list of hymns she wanted him to play at her memorial. For the service, Douglas arranged the pieces for a brass ensemble, but the music stuck with him, and he adapted much of it for his excellent new band—saxophonist Jon Irabagon (a Chicago native who plays in Mostly Other People Do the Killing), pianist Matt Mitchell, drummer Rudy Royston, and bassist Linda Oh (whose excellent second album, Initial Here, came out on Douglas's Greenleaf label). Douglas originally planned to record instrumental versions of the hymns, but at a concert in January he met vocalist Aoife O'Donovan of contemporary bluegrass band Crooked Still and was struck by her gorgeous, unfussy singing. She brings that lyrical clarity to six of the album's nine songs, and imbues the title track—an adaptation of a Jean Sibelius hymn—with an ethereal, uncategorizable grace that doesn't belong to jazz, bluegrass, or sacred music. On the Ola Belle Reed tune "High on a Mountain," though, the band does a credible impression of a bluegrass combo without bluegrass instruments (though O'Donovan does play some acoustic guitar). This isn't new territory for Irabagon either—he's a member of Bryan & the Haggards, a jazz group that specializes in Merle Haggard covers—and it sounds like he's having a blast with his tart and twangy tenor solo. The back half of the album includes several new Douglas originals, generally played in the same pastoral mode as the hymns, albeit with more drive: "Middle March," dedicated to the memory of drummer Paul Motian, moves with the same sort of melancholy but inexorable melodic drift that characterized his music. O'Donovan will join the band in its Chicago debut. —Peter Margasak

Price: $15

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