In a recent radio interview, trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas explained his plan to get focused like so: he's going to stick to two or three projects at a time, instead of juggling the six or eight that have filled his schedule till now. Those range from the intimate and freewheeling Tiny Bell Trio (with its bizarre instrumentation of trumpet, guitar, and drums) to the musicopolitical statement Witness to his reexaminations of oeuvres as disparate as Mary Lou Williams's swing-era compositions and Wayne Shorter's distilled hard bop of the 60s. Douglas shines in every setting as ballsy, smart, and accomplished, but no group better displays his range as a trumpeter than the quintet he brings to Chicago this weekend. He uses the forum to offer a new take on hard bop: though he respects the flaring virtuosity of Lee Morgan and Woody Shaw and has clearly taken a page or two from Lester Bowie's book, his playing these days has most to do with the searing trumpetry of pre-electric Miles Davis. Douglas distills his influences into something cool but forceful; his clear-eyed sincerity allows him to ignore the irony endemic to postmodernism and steer around the pitfalls of camp. This show will no doubt feature music from the quintet's spectacular new Strange Liberation (Bluebird/RCA), where Douglas again refers to political concerns: the title comes from Martin Luther King's characterization of American efforts to "free" South Vietnam of the Vietcong. The quintet also functions as a structured showcase for lights-out soloing from saxist Chris Potter (the spark plug of Dave Holland's bands) and keyboardist Uri Caine (taking a break from his own eclectic adaptations of Bach, Mahler, and Wagner); the album adds guitarist Bill Frisell, who not coincidentally turns in his best work of the millennium. Saturday, February 14, 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.