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Dave Douglas and Brass Ecstasy | Spirit Moves

Greenleaf Music (2009)
By JON GARELICK  |  June 16, 2009
4.0 4.0 Stars

One of the most genial CDs in Douglas's vast discography is also one of his most accomplished. The immediate connection is pop. So Rufus Wainwright's ballad "This Love Affair" becomes a New-Orleans-brass-band funeral march.

The format also connects to the late Lester Bowie and his Brass Fantasy (he's namechecked in the title of an appropriately eclectic and comic Douglas original). This outfit is smaller than Bowie's nonet: Douglas's trumpet plus trombone (Luis Bonilla), French horn (Vincent Chancey), and tuba (Marcus Rojas) over trap drums (Nasheet Waits). But Douglas's voicings make the ensemble sound larger than it is, and the bebop swing of the Fats Navarro tribute ("Fats") is ready-made for big band.

There are other pop touchstones as well: Otis Redding's "Mr. Pitiful," with a machine-gun chorus riff on the bridge, and Hank Williams's "So Lonesome I Could Cry," with weepy muted trumpet and trombone solos. But it's the writing that provides depth. Despite the deceptive pop-song outlines and strong grooves, just about every piece emphasizes the rich weave of voices, and on originals like "The View from Blue Mountain" and "Twilight of the Dogs," Douglas extends forms you think you know to take you someplace new.
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