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Dave Douglas' Tiny Bell Trio
Dave Douglas is top dog of a new breed of jazz cats. A horn-playing paradox, he doesn't draw lines between mainstream and avant-garde. Consequently, he's gained acceptance in both camps for a vision he says falls under the untrendy banner of “improvised-composed music in the American tradition.”

At this year's internationally recognized Second Annual Jazz Awards, Douglas took home a significant share of the honors as Composer, Trumpeter, Musician, and Innovator/Explorer of the Year — no small feat for an artist who's only been on the New York scene for the past decade or so. But in that short period, Douglas has founded a number of successful groups, recorded on dozens of albums for more than a half-dozen labels, and collaborated with a wide range of creative-jazz leaders, including John Zorn (in Masada).

Douglas' total-music concept enables him to adapt well to nearly any performance situation. “I don't think of myself as a trumpet jock,” says the horn player. “I really feel like it's always been music, any kind of music, that turned me on.” This big-picture ethos comes across in Douglas' free-wheeling manipulation of tone. From one bar to the next, he can shift smartly from light-hearted wheezes and slurs to dead-serious high-intensity blasts, taking the listener on an emotional roller-coaster ride that's engaging from start to finish.

His work with the Tiny Bell Trio (with guitarist Brad Schoeppach and drummer Jim Black) is arguably the apex of Douglas' vast oeuvre. Given the uniquely challenging configuration of horn, six-string, and drums, the trumpeter has to be on almost the entire set — leading the melody, laying down harmony, comping bass lines behind the guitar, rhythmically sparring with the drums. “It's really overwhelming,” says Douglas. “It's everything I have to do to keep it together.” Clearly, it's also a context in which the trumpeter thrives; he ain't top dog for nothin'.

Dave Douglas' Tiny Bell Trio appears with Tin Hat Trio on Wednesday, Oct. 27, at 8 p.m. at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Third and Mission streets, S.F. Tickets are $20-32; call 788-7353.

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