Photo: John Rudoff

Today we’re premiering an exclusive video: “Time Travel (Alt. Take),” from trumpeter Dave Douglas‘s new DD|50 box. It’s an alternate version of the title track from one of the three albums included in the box, performed by his new quintet featuring saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh, and drummer Rudy Royston. They’re featured on two of the three albums, Time Travel and Be Still. On the latter disc, they’re joined by vocalist Aoife O’Donovan. Those two albums were initially released separately; the third disc in the box, Pathways, is entirely new, and showcases a whole other band: Greg Tardy on clarinet and tenor sax, Joshua Roseman on trombone, Uri Caine on piano, and Clarence Penn on drums, with Oh and O’Donovan returning on bass and vocals, respectively.

Here’s the video:

The band heard on Be Still and Time Travel is a swinging hard bop squad with the will and desire to stretch accessible forms as far as they’ll go without snapping. Douglas and Irabagon are a great team; their individual tones mesh well, but there’s enough sharpness to each man’s sound that the melody lines are never perfectly smooth. There’s always a little burr sticking out to catch the ear. Mitchell, Oh, and Royston (one of my favorite current drummers) are a strong, energetic rhythm section; when they break into trio play, you never feel impatient for the horns’ return. Time Travel is a much more uptempo album than Be Still; the latter, which features O’Donovan prominently, is a somewhat mournful set of songs that are part poetry, part hymn, and part Irish folk music. The way the group blends all these disparate sounds into jazz—and the way O’Donovan entirely eschews the clichés of jazz vocal technique, preferring to serve the lyrics in a simple and heartfelt manner—is what gives the record its power.

Pathways features O’Donovan again, though only on the opening track, “My Cares are Down Below.” The addition of trombone to the ensemble gives the music a blurred quality at times, assisted by Penn’s washes of cymbal; “Dragonback” and the title track drift like fog. But this group is just as capable as the other of ferocious swing; “Pine Marten” and the closing “Passing the Torch Song” are leaping, loping workouts. It’s a concise record, too, with seven tracks in just 39 minutes.

The DD|50 box is available on iTunes; the physical version is available on Bandcamp. In addition to the three aforementioned CDs, there’s a DVD that includes four additional audio tracks (three alternate takes and one entirely new piece, “Handwritten Letter”) and several videos, including the version of “Time Travel” above. Whether you’re a longtime Douglas fan or coming to his music fresh, this is a killer set and well worth the investment of your time and money.

Phil Freeman

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