A few years ago trumpeter Dave Douglas was asked to write music to be played at high altitude (around 10,000 feet) for a festival in Italy's Dolomites; band and audience would hike to the performance spot. The organizers sent along a recording of Ladino music from the region, and taking its emotional range--Douglas would later describe it as "veer[ing] between solemn devotional calmness and riotous drunken celebration"--as inspiration, he composed a dazzling suite of chamber jazz. The summer after its 2003 premiere Douglas reconvened his ensemble--reedist Michael Moore, cellist Peggy Lee, drummer Dylan van der Schyff, and tubaist Marcus Rojas--to record the studio version, recently released as Mountain Passages, the first album on his new label, Greenleaf. The music is meticulously organized, with concise improvisation flowing organically from melodically rich, contrapuntally dense arrangements. As in many of Douglas's earlier projects (particularly Charms of the Night Sky and Tiny Bell Trio) the writing is notable for its balance, giving equal weight to each of the players, and for its grounding in European folk music. But it also draws on American idioms: the Crescent City flavor of the agile tuba lines, the Mancini-esque detective schmaltz stirred into "Gumshoe." For this performance Douglas's new band, Nomad, will play mostly music from Mountain Passages; the lineup is Rojas, reedist Myron Walden, drummer Tyshawn Sorey, and cellist Rubin Kodheli. Mon 2/28, 7 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. Free. All ages.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.