Dave Douglas (trumpeter)

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Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas (trumpet).jpg
Dave Douglas at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2007.
Background information
Born (1963-03-24) March 24, 1963 (age 52)
Origin East Orange, New Jersey
Genres Jazz, free jazz, electronic music
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, bandleader
Instruments Trumpet, cornet
Years active 1984–present
Labels Greenleaf, RCA, Winter & Winter Arabesque, Soul Note
Associated acts Masada, Brass Ecstasy, Keystone, Soundprints, SFJAZZ Collective, Riverside
Website davedouglas.com

Dave Douglas (born March 24, 1963) is an American jazz trumpeter and composer whose music derives from jazz, classical music, folk music, electronica and klezmer.

Since 1993, Douglas has recorded more than forty albums as a bandleader. He has produced more than fifty, including all albums released by his independent label, Greenleaf Music. He has also performed and recorded with dozens of musicians in jazz and popular genres and has been a member of the SFJAZZ Collective and various John Zorn ensembles. With his own groups, Douglas has pioneered new settings for the trumpet in jazz. In more recent years, he has explored collaborations involving modern dance, spoken word/poetry, and film.[1]

Douglas served as the artistic director of the Banff Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music from 2002 to 2012. He is a co-founder of the Festival of New Trumpet Music – a non-profit charity that supports new and pioneering trumpet work across genres, genders and communities – that is held annually in New York City.[2][3]

Early years[edit]

Douglas grew up in the New York City area and attended Phillips Exeter Academy, a private high school in New Hampshire. He discovered jazz while on an abroad program in Spain. After graduating from high school in 1981, he studied at the Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory, both located in Boston, Massachusetts.[1]

In 1984, Douglas moved to New York to study at New York University and finished a degree in music. Meanwhile, he played with a variety of ensembles and came to the attention of the jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader, Horace Silver, with whom he toured Europe in 1987.[1]


Dave Douglas (in black) with Masada

In 1993, Douglas began performing with John Zorn in his Masada quartet, which blended the influences of saxophonist/composer Ornette Coleman with Jewish folk musics. The band became one of Zorn's most long-standing and popular ensembles, and brought Douglas wider attention.[4]

Since the mid-1990s, Douglas has led a variety of groups simultaneously. His first album as a leader, Parallel Worlds (1993), featured Douglas backed by a string trio performing his own compositions and music by Webern, Kurt Weill and Stravinsky. Meanwhile, Douglas formed two new groups, the Tiny Bell Trio, and his sextet. The former performs what Douglas calls "Balkan improvisations". It is unusual in its instrumentation (trumpet, guitar, drums) and blends Eastern European folk influences with jazz. The sextet features the classic instrumentation of trumpet, tenor sax, trombone, piano, bass, and drums. This group focuses on the music of great jazz composers and Douglas pieces inspired by those musicians. Their first release was a tribute to the trumpeter Booker Little.

In 1996, Douglas recorded Sanctuary with Cuong Vu, Anthony Coleman, and other musicians of the New York downtown scene of the time. The group involved sampling and DJ improvisations in addition to jazz.

In 1997, Douglas started a quartet featuring trumpet, violin, accordion, and bass which recorded Charms of the Night Sky, incorporating Eastern European and Jewish folk musics as well as jazz influences on the music, which is generally mellow and relaxed. The album included a number of tracks with Douglas and accordionist Guy Klucevsek performing as a duo. A second album by the Charms of the Night Sky group, A Thousand Evenings was released in 2000.

Also in 1997, Douglas founded another quartet. The Dave Douglas Quartet performs wild, freewheeling music, influenced by the bands of Coleman and Zorn.


SFJAZZ Collective—from left to right: Andre Hayward, Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano and Miguel Zenón at the North Sea Jazz Festival of 2007. Photo by Siebe van Ineveld

In 2000, Douglas released Soul on Soul, a tribute to composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams, featuring original arrangements of her music for the sextet and new pieces inspired by her work. Douglas also released albums featuring Charms of the Night Sky and the Dave Douglas Quartet in the same year.

In the early years of the decade, Douglas worked often with the Trisha Brown Dance Company. El Trilogy, an extended musical work accompanying modern dance, was performed during 2000–2001.

Witness, a nine-part suite, was released in 2001. It features a band made up of trumpet, sax, two electric pianos, electronic percussion, bass, and drums. Douglas' music had always been informed by his political concerns, but this album was his most ambitious attempt to give them musical form, often by celebrating his political and cultural heroes through dedications and track titles. The album includes a 20-minute track entitled "Mahfouz", in which gravel-voiced singer Tom Waits reads an excerpt from the works of Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz, as well as pieces dedicated to Edward Said and Taslima Nasrin.

More recently, Douglas founded the Dave Douglas New Quintet and Nomad.[1] The Quintet is a trumpet and tenor sax-led group but with Fender Rhodes electric piano. Their first album, The Infinite (2001), featured Douglas originals and pieces by or inspired by musicians Rufus Wainwright and Thom Yorke. This was followed up by 2004's Strange Liberation by the same group with guest Bill Frisell on guitar. Formed in 2003, Nomad is made up of trumpet, clarinet, cello, tuba, and drums. With this band, Douglas performed his suite Mountain Passages, commissioned for the Italian Sound of the Dolomites Festival, and released as the first album on Douglas' record label Greenleaf Music in 2005. The suite features a variety of different influences including Italian Ladino music, New Orleans jazz, and other musics, and is to be played from 9 to 12,000 feet above sea level.

Douglas also started a new band called Keystone, which performs works influenced by the silent film actor and director Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle. The project includes pieces to be performed with Arbuckle's films. This ensemble is made up of trumpet, tenor sax, Wurlitzer (electric piano), turntables, electric bass, and drums. A CD of this music – accompanied by a DVD with two Arbuckle shorts – was released in 2005.

2006 saw Douglas release Meaning and Mystery, where he plays again with his quintet, now with Donny McCaslin in place of Chris Potter on saxophones. In December 2006, Greenleaf Music recorded all the quintet's performances over a six-night engagement at New York's Jazz Standard jazz club, called them Live at the Jazz Standard, and made the two-hour sets the band played each night available for download from the company's website within 24 hours. The 44 compositions, almost all of them by Douglas alongside covers of Wainwright, Mary J. Blige and Björk, featured 14 tunes not previously recorded by the band. Those 14 new compositions were released on a 2-CD set, Live at the Jazz Standard, in 2007.

In late 2007, Moonshine, a further recording by Keystone, was released. This was based upon recordings made of a concert performance by the band at that year's Bray Jazz Festival in Ireland. The Keystone band then led a 5-night run at Jazz Standard in April 2008. Greenleaf Music recorded and released all ten sets through their website as a download-only series, Keystone: Live at Jazz Standard (Complete Book).

In 2009, Douglas released two albums: Spirit Moves by his Brass Ecstasy band which featured Vincent Chancey, Luis Bonilla, Marcus Rojas and Nasheet Waits; and his first album of big band compositions, A Single Sky, a collaboration with Jim McNeely and the Frankfurt Radio Bigband.


In tandem with the 100th anniversary of the first Frankenstein film, Douglas collaborated with experimental film-maker Bill Morrison and released the 3-CD set Spark of Being. Written for his Keystone ensemble, the set includes three related, yet subtly different, albums to accompany the Morrison film. The first edition, entitled Soundtrack, comprises long-form pieces edited to accompany the film in real time. The second edition, Expand, contains extended performances of the original themes from the soundtrack, arranged in a traditional jazz album format. Burst, the third edition, consists of additional variations and unused outtakes recorded at the initial session.[5]

In 2011, Douglas released three albums within the span of five months through Greenleaf Music. The albums were released only in digital format and contained approximately 30 to 50 minutes of music per album, referencing album lengths of the LP era. Released under the unifying label of the Greenleaf Portable Series, or GPS, the albums showcased ensembles that Douglas may only "rarely get to play with" in some cases. The first album, Rare Metals featured Douglas' Brass Ecstasy ensemble. The second album, Orange Afternoons included Ravi Coltrane on tenor sax, Vijay Iyer on piano, Linda Oh on bass, Marcus Gilmore on drums. The third, Bad Mango, paired Douglas with the innovative quartet So Percussion.[6]

Douglas joined with tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano to form the co-led quintet Soundprints in 2012. The group originated during the bandleaders' intersecting tenures in the SFJAZZ Collective in 2008 and is loosely based upon the music of tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter. The group's Village Vanguard debut in November 2012 included drummer Joey Baron, bassist Linda Oh and pianist Lawrence Fields.[7]

Douglas released Be Still in 2012. The album featured Douglas' newly formed quintet of Jon Irabagon on saxophone, Matt Mitchell on piano, Linda Oh on bass, and Rudy Royston on drums with the addition of vocalist Aoife O'Donovan. Dedicated to the memory of Douglas' mother, Emily, who died in 2011, Be Still features nine tracks, of which six are hymns and folks songs that she requested Douglas perform at her funeral. The same ensemble, minus O'Donovan, recorded and released Time Travel the following year.[8][9]

Inspired by 2005's Mountain Passages, which the I Suoni delle Dolomiti festival in Northern Italy commissioned to be performed at a high altitude, Douglas initiated his 2013 tenure as the Monterey Jazz Festival's "Showcase Artist" with a benefit concert and hike at Glen Deven Ranch in Big Sur, California. The audience and performers alike hiked to a promontory overlooking the Pacific Ocean and then listened to a concert of Douglas' music.[3]

In celebration of his 50th birthday, Douglas launched his "50 States Project" and set out to perform in each of the 50 U.S. states throughout the course of 2013. The tour aimed to include performances in "unlikely and outdoors locations for people who might not otherwise have the same kind of access to live, improvised music as those in larger cities."[10]

In 2014, Douglas formed a collaboration with tenor saxophonist Chet Doxas, electric bassist Steve Swallow, and drummer Jim Doxas. Collectively known as Riverside, the group formed out of a shared respect for Texas-born multireedist Jimmy Giuffre. The group's eponymously-titled recording features originals by Douglas and Doxas, as well as Guiffre's "The Train and the River".[11]



  1. ^ a b c d Kelsey, Chris. "Dave Douglas: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  2. ^ Sawyer, Jill. "Dave Douglas takes it to the coda". Banff Center. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Blumfeld, Larry. "Dave Douglas has horn, will travel". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  4. ^ Layne, Joslyn. "Masada: Live in Taipei: Review". Allmusic. Retrieved January 30, 2011. 
  5. ^ Collins, Troy. "Dave Douglas & Keystone: Spark Of Being". All About Jazz. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  6. ^ JARENWATTANANON, PATRICK. "Dave Douglas: Three Records, Five Months". NPR. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  7. ^ Chinen, Nate. "Sound Prints at the Village Vanguard". New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  8. ^ Jurek, Thom. "Be Still". All Music. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  9. ^ Collar, Matt. "Time Travel". All Music. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  10. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff. "Dave Douglas 50 States Project Tour Under Way". JazzTimes. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 
  11. ^ Chinen, Nate. "New Recordings by Riverside, Jessica Lea Mayfield and August Alsina". New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2014. 

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