Dave Douglas – Moonshine (2007)

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by Tom Johnson

I really admire trumpeter Dave Douglas. Not only is he world-renowned as one of jazz’s best, he has taken the high and difficult road by setting out to create his own little sanctuary for musicians, a label in Greenleaf Music where they get treated fairly and where listeners can feel the same. My dealings with them have always been nothing less than wonderful — great products and quick shipping, what more can you ask for … other than “more?”

For Moonshine, Douglas called together his Keystone band (Marcus Strickland on saxophone; Gene Lake on drums; Brad Jones on bass; Adam Benjamin on Fender Rhodes; DJ Olive on turntables and electronics) for another album based around, like Keystone, a silent film — this time the unfinished Buster Keaton/Fatty Arbuckle project of the same name from 1917.

Where the first project worked as a soundtrack to the accompanying DVD, which included Arbuckle’s “Fatty and Mabel Adrift” and a shorter video of footage compiled from “Fatty’s Tin-Type Tangle,” Moonshine is meant to stand on its own, simply using the film as inspiration, a jumping off point. And, just like the first project, you don’t really need to know the films to enjoy this.

Douglas’ band is a powerhouse that will have listeners riveted with or without a concept. The result is much like the music of Keystone — gritty and urban, but filled with exactly the twists and turns one would expect from Douglas. Rooting itself in several genres and eras at once, DJ Olive keeps things firmly in the world of today with his electronic explorations while the horns display a distinctly European flair and Adam Benjamin’s Rhodes work reflects a bit of 1970s fusion.

Gene Lake’s drumming spans it all, tying everything together — much of the time he’s deep in a groove with bassist Brad Jones but often he’s coloring the air with little percussive fills that, you know, “really tie the room together.”

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Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson has contributed to Blogcritics, and maintained a series of stand-alone sites including Known Johnson, Everything is a Mess and others. He studied both creative writing and then studio art at Arizona State. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
Tom Johnson
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