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Various Artists: In His Own Sweet Way: A Tribute To Dave Brubeck
Various Artists: In His Own Sweet Way: A Tribute To Dave Brubeck
turnover time:2024-06-25 06:06:00

With the occasional exception, people just don't buy jazz records in large numbers anymore; consequently, labels are less likely than ever to take risks on players who, talented or not, just may not recoup a big investment. The sad result is that jazz is relatively inaccessible to many consumers, with all but the most popular acts relegated to independent distribution despite the frequently high quality of the music. Every once in a while, though, a player of some prominence slips through the cracks and lands a major record deal. Trumpeter Dave Douglas—as comfortable with Don Cherry and Lester Bowie as Miles Davis and Eastern-European folk music—has excelled as both a leader (Tiny Bell Trio, Charms Of The Night Sky) and a sideman in Masada. Several records down the line, Soul On Soul is his major-label debut. A tribute to influential swing pianist Mary Lou Williams (the title comes from Duke Ellington's description of her playing), Soul On Soul is more than just a collection of interpretations: Nine of the thirteen tracks are Douglas compositions inspired by Williams. Douglas' assembled band—pianist Uri Caine, reed players Chris Speed and Greg Tardy, trombone player Joshua Roseman, bassist James Genus, and drummer Joey Baron—does a great job with these neo-swing songs, especially Caine. While the disc isn't as challenging as Douglas' concurrent quartet release Leap Of Faith, it's a fine place for the uninitiated to begin before Douglas' discography gets too unmanageable. Ironically, the compilation In His Own Sweet Way, which also features Caine, Speed, Baron, and Douglas on independent tracks, is a Japan-only release that takes compositions by Dave Brubeck, one of jazz's biggest crossover successes, and transforms them into a showcase for diverse and imaginative playing. The disc does wonders in demonstrating how important interpretation is to jazz, as tracks by the iconoclastic likes of Sex Mob ("Jumpin'"), Caine ("Far More Blues," which quotes "Take Five"), Ruins ("Blue Rondo A La Turk"), Anthony Coleman ("The Duke"), and Medeski Martin & Wood ("Tokyo Traffic") have their playful way with the material while maintaining a sense of respect for the great composer. The days when a writer like Brubeck could conquer the charts are long gone, but, as with Mary Lou Williams, his influence lives on in all corners of the jazz world.

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