In the past decade, violin and accordion have arguably become the subtlest vehicles for creative music innovation. Well aware of the power of this unlikely pair of avant-garde instruments, ubiquitous New York trumpeter Dave Douglas enlisted top downtown practitioners Mark Feldman (violin) and Guy Klucevsek (squeeze-box) for Charms of the Night Sky, the critically lauded chamber group he launched in 1997. A composer and improviser of many voices, Douglas uses the evocative orchestration of this lineup (which also includes contrabassist Greg Cohen) to weave lyrical tales that often range widely and quietly but with surprising punch — not unlike a lion stalking its prey.
The new album A Thousand Evenings culls the horn player's heady influences, from jazz to classical, klezmer to Spanish folk traditions. But Douglas' strength lies less in his fundamental knowledge of myriad musical forms than in his ability to hear melodic connections between the styles and shape seamless contours in his compositions. But like the greatest bandleaders, from Duke Ellington to Anthony Braxton, the richness of Douglas' chamber project stems from the smart contributions of his bandmates — which the trumpeter readily attests, stating that his accordionist's “taste and restraint are in large part responsible for the tone of this band.”
Five years ago, most adventurous jazz fans knew Douglas solely from his high-profile association with John Zorn's band Masada. Since then, Douglas has been recording and performing a number of works under his own leadership — and the industry is taking notice: At this past year's Jazz Awards he won a pile of honors, including composer, album, trumpeter, and jazz artist of the year. Charms of the Night Sky is his band to see.