Dave Douglas Tiny Bell Trio | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Dave Douglas Tiny Bell Trio


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In his decade-long career, New York trumpeter Dave Douglas has enjoyed the kind of meteoric ascent usually restricted to the pop world. In settings ranging from relatively straight jazz with pianist Horace Silver and saxist Vincent Herring through eclectic piecework with New and Used and Dr. Nerve to Yiddish jazz with John Zorn's Masada, he's quickly earned a reputation for having both chops and vision in a field virtually bereft of trumpet players with either. And starting about three years ago he's shown himself to be a daring but surefooted bandleader and an inventive composer as well. Douglas's most recent outings have featured larger groups, including his string band (whose Parallel Lines, on Soul Note, is highly recommended) and the mixed ensemble with which he made In Our Lifetime (New World), a tribute to Booker Little, and Stargazer (Arabesque), a tribute to Wayne Shorter; but his stripped-down Tiny Bell Trio is still the perfect group to show off all sides of his music. Douglas's playing is lithe, quotational, and delightfully on-pitch--he isn't prone to the amorphous valve tapping of so many other freewheeling trumpet players. And his command of historical techniques, among them growls, slurs, and all forms of muting, gives him something in common with today's most interesting trombonists, who have done a better job than trumpeters of exploring expressive and timbral devices. Douglas's writing is clever, darting between perilous unison lines and folksy melodies and leaving plenty of space for the players to open up; on the debut Tiny Bell Trio (Songlines) and two subsequent records, Constellations (Hat Art) and the new Live in Europe (Arabesque), he's also effectively arranged pieces by Robert Schumann, Kurt Weill, and Herbie Nichols for the trio. The other Tiny Bells, drummer Jim Black and electric guitarist Brad Shepik (until recently the artist known as Schoeppach), suit Douglas's needs extremely well: Shepik is less given to Bill Frisell-ish volume-pedal tricks than he once was; on The Loan (Songlines), with his group the Commuters, he plays acoustic and Portuguese guitar, electric saz, and banjo. And Black is fidgety, sometimes funky, pushing and filling up rhythms with colorful percussion effects. Sunday, 6 PM, Unity Temple, 875 Lake, Oak Park; 708-383-8873. John Corbett

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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