12 O'Clock Track: Dave Douglas, "Be Still My Soul" | Bleader

Thursday, August 9, 2012

12 O'Clock Track: Dave Douglas, "Be Still My Soul"

Posted By on 08.09.12 at 12:00 PM

For most of his career trumpeter Dave Douglas has started new bands fairly regularly. That can probably be partly explained by the current economy of jazz, which makes it hard for any single group to get enough work to sustain itself—even bandleaders need multiple projects. But just as important is Douglas's musical curiosity. He's always been eager to use specific groups to explore specific ideas—scoring silent films, working with electronics, creating string-driven modern chamber jazz. In recent years, however, he's slowed down, sticking with a smaller number of ensembles, which makes the appearance of a new one particularly newsworthy. On September 25 he's releasing an album called Be Still (on his own Greenleaf imprint) with a great new quintet featuring saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh, and drummer Rudy Royston.

The band's sound and repertoire bring out Douglas's delicate, lyrical side; his gentle original tunes are complemented by an unusual mix of American folk songs and traditional hymns. The group is joined on much of the record by singer Aoife O'Donovan; best known as a member of Americana group the Crooked Still, she's been turning up all over, including on a solo record by Punch Brothers banjoist Noam Pikelny and on Yo-Yo Ma's Goat Radio Sessions (she also plays a solo gig at SPACE in Evanston on August 21). She's got a lovely voice, precise pitch control, and sublimely liquid phrasing, but she isn't included here to underline the project's connection to rural American music—instead, like the rest of the performers, she finds her own ethereal spin on it. Below you can hear O'Donovan on the opening track of Be Still: a version of "Be Still My Soul," a hymn by the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. For any Douglas fans thrown off by the sound of this track, don't worry—the album features plenty of high-level modern jazz, with especially sharp interplay on the three original pieces.

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