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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A funky, chunky, fusiony, grungy, punchy tribute to Fatty..., February 20, 2006
This review is from: Keystone (Audio CD)
Trumpeter Dave Douglas is one of the hardest working men in the jazz business, so it should come as no surprise that he's added a new record label, Greenleaf Music, to his long list of projects... and it's easy to understand why. The major record labels (there are basically two of them now, right?) really have nothing to offer ambitious, innovative musicians anymore -- no wonder so many others are starting their own labels too (including John Zorn, Philip Glass, Michael Torke, John Eliot Gardiner, and the London Symphony Orchestra, to name just a few...)

Keystone is Dave Douglas' audiovisual tribute to the notorious yet somewhat neglected and underappreciated comedic silent film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. This album presents eleven of Douglas' original Arbuckle "movie scores" (along with the actual films on the DVD) performed by Douglas on trumpet, Jamie Saft on wurlitzer electric piano, drummer Gene Lake, saxophonist Marcus Strickland, Brad Jones on bass, and the apparent go-to guy for avant-jazz turntables, DJ Olive.

Douglas and this band are in a funky, chunky, fusiony, almost grungy mode with tunes that are punchy, dry, and muscular -- no wistful Charms of the Night Sky melodies here. There's plenty of fuzzy, nearly distorted wurlitzer in the texture at times, and DJ Olive weaves weird electronic noisescapes and processing effects under the surface throughout. Gene Lake's drumming is especially aggressive, propulsive, and prominent in the mix -- and yes, it kicks ass.

In fact, Keystone is probably the most successful and enjoyable jazz/rock/electronic fusion album I've heard in a long time (and it seems like there have been plenty of them lately.) Sure, I like Uri Caine's Bedrock, The Bad Plus, and Cinematic Orchestra just fine too, but Douglas' Keystone band is just more exciting and, well, fun. Yes, sometimes the soprano sax soloing goes on a bit too long, and occasionally DJ Olive's contributions are more annoying than interesting, but usually everyone in the band is doing something to contribute to the music and it all comes together remarkably well -- and, unlike so many neo-jazz fusion groups, it sounds like they're actually enjoying themselves.

The DVD included with Keystone is really an essential element of this whole project (unlike most throwaway "bonus DVDs" these days.) I had never seen a Fatty Arbuckle movie before watching this, and I was completely amazed at how bizarre and entertaining a 1916 silent film could actually be and how well Douglas' new music complemented the action on screen. The DVD contains the 34 minute Fatty & Mabel Adrift, an epic tale of love, jealousy, and real estate; and the five minute Just Another Murder "music video" (I guess Dave wants his MTV) which is a wild slapstick collage of scenes from Fatty's Tintype Tangle featuring all kinds of life-threatening situations. It's all fascinating, strange, and even sort of funny now and then.

In short, Keystone (both the CD and the DVD) is a rousing success, and gets Dave Douglas' new Greenleaf Music label off to a winning start. Encore!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb., October 5, 2005
Michael Stack (North Chelmsford, MA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Keystone (Audio CD)
"Keystone" is Dave Douglas' tribute to silent movie actor/director Russell "Fatty" Arbuckle-- this package contains a CD of music and a DVD with a short Fatty Arbuckle movie ("Fatty and Mabel Adrift") and a music video (note that this seems to have some sort of distribution delay, I was able to secure a copy at

Tackling the CD first-- the music on "Keystone" is groove-based fusion, the closest analogy that could be made to it is to say it is a modern take on the early Miles Davis/Wayne Shorter fusion sound. Douglas' band follows the arrangement of Miles' 1970 quintet-- himself on trumpet, Marcus Strickland on saxophones, Jamie Saft on wurlitzer piano, Brad Jones on bass and Greg Lake on drums-- augmented by the turntables of DJ Olive. The seventh unsung musician on this project is producer David Torn, who lends his own atmosphere and presence to this project without actually performing. Those familiar with Torn's work will recognize his stamp on the record.

The music excels when the band hits a strong groove-- Jones and Lake lock into great funk/fusion sounds, augmented by Olive (and I'm guessing Torn), while Saft performs in advanced opposition to them, producing a rather stunning array of sounds from his keyboard, often in counter to the horns. Speaking of, Douglas and Strickland at times set up a Masadaish vibe, harmonizing and playing off of each other in a style reminiscent of the Zorn/Douglas frontline. Highlights include the deep groove and breakneck beat of "Just Another Murder", which works into a superb ground for Douglas and particularly Strickland to work, the chugging, hip-hoppish interlude "Fatty's Day Off" (with the horns laying out), and the inventive and unpredictable "Famous Players", which features brilliant soloing from both Saft and Lake. But in reality the album is of such consistently high quality and performance that I could probably identify another dozen moments that stand out, truth to be told, this is really one of the best pieces in Douglas' catalog, if not the best.

The DVD, which I sort of look at as a bonus, is entertaining-- "Fatty and Mabel Adrift" is presented in its entirity (about 35 minutes) with score provided by music from the "Keystone" project. In part, the music gains strength when paired with the image-- the somewhat cinematic and storytelling atmosphere to the music, which isn't readily apparent on first listen, comes out quite a bit more cleanly when associated with the video. Like any great soundtrack music, it's revelatory in its own way when separated, and approaching this first as music and then as soundtrack really changes your perspective. Arbuckle's film is bizarre in modern context-- silent movies by and large had to rely on overacting and expressionism to get their point across, and for a man of his build, Arbuckle was remarkably agile. His expressiveness as an actor (and for that matter that of the remaining cast) makes the piece amusing, but Douglas sums it up best in the liner notes when he states that you can watch an Arbuckle piece, be entertained, and after it's over, wonder what happened.

The music video (for standout "Just Another Murder") matches scenes from various Fatty Arbuckle pieces with the music and is entertaining though more a diversion than anything else.

The CD and DVD are housed in a digipack with a brief essay from Douglas concerning the project, Fatty Arbuckle, and the music. Perhaps the most clever is the photo of Douglas (holding a dog whose mouth is up to a bugle) in brown-tinted monochrome, looking like a still from a silent movie. All in all, a superb package, highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern Music - Don't be fooled by the Fatty Arbuckle Theme, April 30, 2008
This review is from: Keystone (Audio CD)
I delayed in buying this CD for a long time because I thought it was going to be 1920's style music to go along with the Fatty Arbuckle Theme. This is not the case. This is some of Dave Douglas' most modern work (perhaps his most modern work). The group features DJ olive on turn tables, Jamie Saft on Wurlitzer, Brad Jones, on bass and Mark Strickland, on sax. The sound is a little bit Miles Davis 70's era, a little bit Herbie Hancock Headhunters, with a twist of modern electronica. Most of the songs a catchy tunes and the group takes turns ripping solos over the funky grooves. The CD also comes with a Fatty Arbuckle DVD with an edited version of the album that is "timed-up" to the movie. Personally I don't think the music really fits very well w/ Fatty Arbuckle. I think Dave just wanted to pay a tribute to Fatty. Regardless I like the music, and I think anyone following Dave's recent work will enjoy this CD. I don't think the songs are quite the compositional masterpieces that you'll find on Strange Liberation, Meaning & Mystery, and Live at the Jazz Standard. These songs are a bit simpler and more jammed out. Nonetheless its great music and I love it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars dave's keystone, April 21, 2007
This review is from: Keystone (Audio CD)
jazz artists like joe lovano and james carter have persona, the late lester bowie, with and without the art ensemble of chicago, was theatric, and more than a few jazz artists are arrayed in sartorial splendor, whether wearing hip threads or wearing their audience, all this lends to live performance and lends visual memory to recordings, if you've seen the live performances-and if not, then you should just like what you hear, which is why i listen to music anyway, and come away with favorite artists and favorite recordings.

in the case of dave douglas, when he's using the late 60s and later music of miles davis as a springboard, i like his quintet work. or if he includes instruments not usually associated with jazz to comprise a quintet.

keystone is made a sextet by including dj olive on turntables. otherwise, it's a quintet. the cd was nothing spectacular, which didn't surprise me.

i watched the fatty arbuckle movie and was drawn into the film from the opening notes of the music. for me this proved to be dave douglas' theatre and clothes. after watching the movie, i have listened to the cd several times, each time with the visual memory of the fatty arbuckle movie and soundtrack. i've listened to a couple of other dave douglas quintet cds, and with keystone in mind i find them more enjoyable than in the past.

i'm not a fan of silent film, and chances are i would not had enjoyed this one without douglas' music. there's a wedding night turns disastrous sequence that makes fun brilliantly of society's mores and cinematic prudery of the day involving the stricture against a man and woman being in the same bed together for any reason. watch the film, listen to the music, they go together, hand in glove.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff, May 23, 2006
T. Klaase (Orange Park, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Keystone (Audio CD)
I have a few DD albums (Freak in, Witness -another good one, etc) but this is by far the best effort I've heard from him. Greg Lake is amazing - but everyone really holds there own and the compositionas are solid with room to improvise...
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars in 1 woord : groots !, October 28, 2006
This review is from: Keystone (Audio CD)
Dit is voor mij een zeer goede CD, in het al zeer rijke oeuvre van Dave Douglas. Prachtig uitgegeven CD en DVD, de muziek past perfect bij de stille zwartwitfilm. Heb je de kans om dit ook live te zien, doen !
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Keystone by Dave Douglas (Audio CD - 2006)
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