Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Sound Prints – Scandal
(Greenleaf Music GRE-CD-1063. CD review by Mike Collins)
This Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas collaboration, dedicated to following in Wayne Shorter’s soundprints, was first spotted in action by LondonJazz at Ronnie Scott’s way back in 2012. Their first release was a live album three years later. Now comes Scandal, their first studio session, released on Douglas’ own Greenleaf label.
The inspiration they derive from Shorter, they say, is to follow his open-minded exploratory approach in a small band, rather than to emulate him directly. Douglas and Lovano have admirers a-plenty of their own, so to hear them focus their creative energies on this joint venture is thrilling. It’s also a project whose personnel have remained unchanged. Linda May Han Oh is on bass, with Lawrence Fields at the piano and Joey Baron on the drums.
This may be a studio album, but has the feel of a live performance. Douglas’ trumpet and Lovano’s saxophone chase each other, weaving in and out across every track. Their debut had two Shorter originals penned especially for them. This set has two classics, Fee Fi Fo Fum arranged by Douglas, and JuJu arranged by Lovano. The first starts with a nod at the classic riff, dissolves into a trumpet and sax joust, bursts into a fleeting piano solo over driving swing, switches to the theme, pauses for riotous, collective reflection before they’re off again. Joey Baron starts off a tumbling reflective take on JuJu, out of time for much of the piece, fragments of the tune declaimed before hectic joint exploration, then a little motific hook sparks a groove and Fields bursts out on piano. It’s exhilarating, high-wire playing.
The remainder of the 11 pieces are penned by the two leaders. Dream State is a striking opener, a stabbing melodic fragment which gradually accumulates weight and a steadily rocking groove. Full Sun swings breezily and Linda Oh stretches out with a propulsive solo. Ups and Downs conjures a wistful mood and taut exquisite solos from Douglas and then Fields.
This band set out to play their music with the same attitude as Shorter and in that they surely succeed. The co-leaders may be the marquee names, but the sound is that of collective exhalation. It’s small band acoustic jazz at its best.
Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site.