Album reviews

Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Sound Prints – ‘Other Worlds’

Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Sound Prints – Other Worlds

(Greenleaf GRE-CD-1084. Album Review by Alison Bentley)

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Not footprints, but Sound Prints: this US quintet led by Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas follows a tradition established by Wayne Shorter’s classic 60s albums. They celebrated Shorter’s 80th birthday with their first album in 2013. Shorter tunes (some written specially for them) are in the band’s repertoire, as well as originals, but this third album’s ten fine tracks are all by Lovano and Douglas. It’s no pastiche, but carries these musicians’ distinctive mark- what Douglas calls their “Sound Prints self…Wayne inspires us to think about our place in the universe.”

Album cover

It takes off with Lovano‘s Other Worlds Suite: Space Exploration starts enigmatically as they explore the space around each other with tense phrases. Linda May Han Oh’s lustrous bass tone leads them into up swing; the spikiness and thoroughly modern sensibility of Lovano’s sound melds with his rich Ben Webster-y tone.

Douglas solos in brilliant bold colours enhanced by Lawrence Fields’ playfully free piano and Joey Baron’s delicately inventive drumming. The horns tussle together before the short Shooting Stars, as phrases break out in all directions. They settle down for The Flight, the third part of the trilogy, delayed till later in the album. It’s an exhilaratingly bumpy ride, like a Monk tune played with the notes in a different order. The sax solo is emphatic and delicate in full flight. The trumpet is more playful, the huge arcs pleasantly at odds with the bass. The horns duel again, the piano gets funky and all land in one piece.

The bright major chords of Douglas’ waltz Manitou have a spacious feel as the horn lines slide chromatically past each other; the bass solo is woody and sonorous. Douglas’ Antiquity to Outer Space reflects his study of history 2500-3000 years ago. It starts with horns tentatively entwined; swing breaks in briefly among the free exploratory sections linked by ringing horn riffs. The piano’s long Tristano-esque lines are sliced by cymbals; the trumpet’s obbligato is melancholy over arco bass. Lovano seems to turn Baron’s inventive sounds into melodic phrases.

The ghost of Shorter’s tunes seem to flit through these pieces. Douglas’ The Transcendentalists has shades of Infant Eyes, the harmon mute adding piquancy to the mellow feel. The tremolo piano sounds otherworldly as the solos follow the unexpected angles of the chords. Douglas’ Pythagoras hints at Speak No Evil and Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, as the horns diverge from unison over its Afro-Latin pulse. Douglas is growly and exciting; Lovano skirts the harmony boppily with light feet. There’s a particular pleasure in the way the horns and piano improvise round fragments of the theme.

A fine drum solo veers into a jazz-rock pulse in Lovano’s Life on Earth, energy emanating from the supple bass. The trumpet solo is like decisive, clear speech; Lovano plays coruscating chromatic notes to melt your heart, then digs into the groove. His Sky Miles seems to travel a long way in a short time. Its skittish theme over impeccable swing dissolves freely as they create textures round each other’s solos; Fields’ piano solo is ecstatic. Midnight March has Baron’s drums loosely marching behind the strong theme, the cymbals frothy over the powerful bass riffs. When the chords come in it’s a surprise, as if the instruments are pulling in all directions- and having fun. Recorded just before lockdown, the album has the first-take freshness of well-gigged music with musicians who trust each other. This feels like essential music from a world- class band.

Other Worlds is released on 7 May 2021

LINK: Other Worlds at Greenleaf Music

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