DAVE DOUGLAS TINY BELL TRIO
New York trumpeter Dave Douglas has been a hard guy to catch standing still in recent years. He's played foil to John Zorn in Masada, fronted his own pianoless Miles Davis-flavored quartet with saxist Chris Potter, recorded abstract tributes to composers as different as Booker Little and Joni Mitchell, and experimented with a string-dominated third-stream group, among other things. But the Tiny Bell Trio, with guitarist Brad Shepik and drummer Jim Black, is the project that first got him noticed as a leader. Few musicians can match Douglas's knack for blending elements of disparate styles without the result resembling a crazy quilt: quotes abound in his breathless improvisations (a bit of Sousa here, a snatch of a bebop nugget there), but the flow of ideas is nearly seamless. The recurring theme of the Tiny Bell Trio is eastern European folk music, which comes to the fore in a free interpretation of Schumann's Langsam, a shredded Hungarian csardas, and originals like "Song for My Father-in-Law/Uncle Wiggly." (All three are on the group's most recent disc, Live in Europe, from Arabesque.) But it's not the only thread in the tapestry. Shepik, whose eclectic style takes obvious inspiration from Bill Frisell's, uses his instrument both to fill in the spaces around Douglas and to limn the trumpeter's labyrinthine melodies. The inventive Black tosses out an unpredictable array of rhythmic schemes, some of which send the group flying off in new directions and some of which open wide pockets for Shepik and Douglas to spread out in. And Douglas himself can stretch sound like taffy, navigate tricky passages like a slalom skier, and make bold intervalic leaps look as nonchalant as a feather floating to the ground. Wednesday, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Michael jackson.