Birthday shows this week at New York club the Jazz Standard and a new quintet album Time Travel swings hard


Dave Douglas turned 50 at the weekend and what better way than to celebrate the trumpeter’s birthday than a run of shows at a top New York jazz club and the release of a new CD Time Travel?

So where do you time travel to? Let’s think. Fifty Second Street in its heyday or Kansas City when Charlie Parker was in Jay McShann’s band. How about the Vanguard in 1961 listening to John Coltrane on the cusp or Bill Evans on a Sunday night? Or do you wish to, instead, flip a switch to ‘divert’, and shuttle forward? Now there’s a thought.

Time Travel is about hard bop swing essentially. You’ll know the sound if you’re in a jazz club and a tune such as the opener here ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ plays, at least the section before Matt Mitchell’s piano solo.


“I was really interested in what David Toomey wrote in his book The New Time Travelers. How the concept of time travel has been around a long time, and how it is evident in the way we think and the way we create: backwards, forwards, all directions at once, beyond the speed of light, rearranging our understanding of cause and effect.” 
- Dave Douglas

In terms of Douglas’ output, think The Infinite a bit, but there’s no Fender Rhodes. Or the band with Donny McCaslin, the saxophonist who will appear at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival next month inside the quintet for the exclusive show on 4 May. Linda Oh on bass reminds me a little of Ben Williams’ style when Williams was with Terence Blanchard, and this quintet compares strongly to Blanchard’s latest aggregation, although the way the News Orleansian leaves space for Brice Winston is different to Douglas’ approach to harmonising with Irabagon. Both approaches share that salt; and swagger. Time Travel is almost the same band as last year’s acclaimed Be Still but it’s without a singer, although vocalist Heather Masse (not Aoife O’Donovan who’s on Be Still), will join the quintet in Cheltenham with quintet changes as well as saxophone applying also to drums.

‘Law of Historical Memory’ on Time Travel has a superbly ominous atmosphere courtesy of Mitchell, and then some admirably sour horn lines accentuated by drummer Rudy Royston that allow plenty of deliberately uneasy modulating for mood purposes. ‘Beware of Doug’ opens like something out of the Treme soundtrack, while ‘Little Feet’ is where Douglas can ‘speak’ to us listeners with that personal sound of his. ‘Garden State’ referring to New Jersey has a Sopranos-like jauntiness. Finally, the album to be released by Greenleaf in April flutters to a halt with ‘The Pigeon and the Pie’, and in these 10 minutes Douglas, who turned 50 on Sunday, traces his influences back to Kenny Wheeler and beyond, but the direction is also forward. Set the tardis to fly. Stephen Graham  

Dave Douglas, above