Over a six-night stint at New York’s Jazz Standard, composer/trumpeter Dave Douglas and companions Donny McCaslin (tenor sax), Uri Caine (fender rhodes), James Genus (bass), and Clarence Penn (drums) performed and recorded twelve sets that were subsequently captured on this two-disc selection for Greenleaf Music.
Douglas, the Grammy-nominated and billion-time winner of Down Beat’s Trumpeter of the Year title, plays, as always, exceptionally well. Supported by a capable if timid group (Uri Caine shines), the solo work on these pieces is consistently strong while leading to the real stand-outs: the burners.
In this format, Douglas and Caine display controlled and powerful emotions lacking from most modern studio jazz releases. Compositions like “War Room” and the album’s two closers, “Magic Triangle” and “A Single Sky,” show the live setting as the best avenue for this group, allowing the players to open up and give jazz fans the raw improvisation they want.
Sprawling sax and cornet melodies are the usual set-up for the high-energy tunes, allowing Dave to easily enter into his high-intellectual notation, which at times leaves you cold but always astonishes with its unpredictability. Caine’s relentless quality, both in his rhythmic awareness and solo expositions, are the one aspect of the rhythm section that do not disappoint.
Douglas crafts many brilliant melodies, and the soloing is top-tier, though often soiled by the lack of bite where the nitty-gritty rhythm should be. Live at the Jazz Standard is a showcase for Douglas and Caine controlling their mediums, needless of a supporting cast.