Customer Review

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply beautiful, November 15, 2012
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This review is from: Be Still (Audio CD)
As with nearly every release from Dave Douglas, "Be Still" introduces not only a new ensemble but a new concept; this time a conventional jazz quintet (trumpet/tenor/piano/bass/drums) incorporates contemporary bluegrass singer Aoife O'Donovan and presents renditions of hymns and traditional folk songs along with Douglas's own compositions. The result is little short of staggering. Douglas's lyrical side is in full display, and as a dedication to his mother's memory the personal significance of the project comes through loud and clear.

O'Donovan is featured on six of the nine tracks (five of them frontloaded to the first side), and although O'Donovan spends most of her time singing with bluegrass outfit Crooked Still, she could clearly be singing more jazz if she wanted to. "High on a Mountain" gives O'Donovan a chance to bring out her bluegrass side, and the resulting jazz/bluegrass hybrid makes so much sense that I am surprised we don't hear it done more often. O'Donovan emotes subtly on the more personal songs, and the purity of her voice intertwines wonderfully with Douglas's trumpet and Jon Irabagon's tenor sax. Many of the songs are played with a touch of rubato, and the rest of the band (Matt Mitchell on piano, Linda Oh on bass and Rudy Royston on drums) are deeply sympathetic, sounding almost like one instrument on much of the album. It is Mitchell, though, who shines the most, and who may as well be inside Douglas's head.

The hymn tunes, including "Be Still My Soul" and "Living Streams," are touching. The traditional ballad "Barbara Allen" is played without bass and drums; Douglas's reharmonizations are captivating. Slightly less engaging are the two Douglas-penned instrumentals in the middle of the album, "Going Somewhere With You" and "Middle March," which both depart somewhat from the album's concept. The instrumental closer ("Whither Must I Wander?"), on the other hand, is a mournful gem. (This song was written by Ralph Vaughan Williams, not Douglas, as one other reviewer suggests.)

Though it is rare that Douglas maintains the same ensemble for long, I hope very much that he will consider working with this group again. For now, "Be Still" is a (very) bright spot in an already (very) bright career.
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Initial post: Jan 25, 2014 6:48:19 PM PST
David Keymer says:
Very good review. The album is beautiful. Douglas is amazing --the variety in his groups and playing! THis ensemble matches well with his quartet with Guy Klucevsek on accordion, Mark Feldman violin and Greg Cohen bass. It's lyrical, melodic and none of the musicians is selfish or egoistic. Douglas is a genius!
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