The leader sounds better than ever, and the upcoming record suggests he’s on a hot streak” - Peter Margasak, Nowhere Street

Dave Douglas reflects on music as shared blessing and “perpetual conversation” on GIFTS

Released April 12, 2024

Dave Douglas, trumpet, compositions
James Brandon Lewis, tenor saxophone
Rafiq Bhatia, guitar
Ian Chang, drums

BUY / Listen

“How often do we step back and realize what a gift it is to have this music in our life?” asks acclaimed trumpeter, composer and Greenleaf Music founder Dave Douglas. On Gifts, his newest Greenleaf project, Douglas harnesses that feeling of simple wonder with a new book of pieces and four intriguing takes on Strayhorn songs, premiering a new quartet with poll-sweeping tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis and two members of the Oscar-nominated post-rock trio Son Lux: guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang. The sound is harmonically spacious, with no bass, but a full, sonically adventurous guitar palette from Bhatia that frames the group’s trumpet-tenor melodic concept in fresh and unexpected ways.

In a brief liner note Douglas writes: “Gifts is about the blessings of life and music that we share with each other. These gifts stem from our common humanity, so essential to our survival as a species. The musical arts are a gift that is shared between musicians, and also with listeners as part of a perpetual conversation. Cherishing the music of the past blesses us to make the music of the future. And despite the odds, to go on creating pathways for generations to come. Gifts we give and gifts we receive. That’s where this music is coming from.” 

Douglas elaborates: “There are so many forces affecting all of us. It’s our politics. It’s the pandemic, the economy, the environment. It’s what’s going on in the Middle East. It’s about the world being mediated by online interaction and experience. This music comes from a place that’s not about being online, not about being in competition with anyone. It’s about seizing onthese musical gifts that are right there for us.” 

Every player on Gifts brings their own sensibility, and these are gifts as well. Lewis, who appears on five of the 10 tracks, was a student of Douglas’ at Banff years ago and has gone on to wide acclaim and poll wins for his recent Red Lily Quintet albums Jesup Wagon and To Mahalia, With Love. He follows in a distinguished line of tenor players who’ve come through Douglas-led bands, including Chris Potter, Donny McCaslin, Marcus Strickland and Jon Irabagon, not to mention the great Joe Lovano in the co-led Sound Prints quintet. 

As core members of Son Lux, Bhatia and Chang have the closest prior working relationship, something that filters into the music on Gifts. Chang appeared on Douglas’ 2018 subscriber-only Greenleaf album UPLIFT with Bill Laswell, Julian Lage and Mary Halvorson. “This is the fourth of Dave’s projects that I’ve had the good fortune to be a part of,” says Bhatia, who subbed for Shigeto on tour with High Risk and for Lage with UPLIFT before joining Melvin Gibbs and Sim Cain on Marching Music (2020).

“Of all the music we’ve worked on together,” Bhatia continues, “I think Gifts has allowed for the deepest collaboration yet between us, and it feels like I’ve been able to bring more aspects of my identity in sound to bear than ever before. There’s a lot of shared language and experience to tap into and build from. Ian and I have been practically joined at the hip for the past decade, and though I had never played with James prior to Gifts, we’ve been hearing about each other for years from Andy Kaulkin at ANTI- Records (both of us record for the label). We also recently learned that he has deep ties to my wife’s cousins, who he knows from growing up in Buffalo!” 

Guitar is not the most common instrument in the Douglas catalog, although it was there from the very beginning, played by Brad Shepik in the Tiny Bell Trio. Lage, Halvorson, Marc Ribot, Matthew Stevens and Jeff Parker have worked with Douglas more recently. All these guitarists are of course radically different, and Bhatia with his bold sonic explorations is different still, sending an array of pedals through an Eventide H90 processor and manipulating the results in Ableton Live. 

There’s a glitchy atmospheric haze that enters the picture right away on “Gifts,” a long leadoff title track filled with dark lyricism and mystery. That sonic radiance persists on the slow-grooving shuffle “Kind of Teal,” loosely Miles Davis-inspired (previous working title “Teal in Green”). Then Douglas begins the four-song Strayhorn cycle, captivating from the start with the rocking feel and hip, flowing unisons of “Take the ‘A’ Train,” the only of the four to feature Lewis’ tenor. “Rain Check,” “Blood Count” and “Day Dream,” as well as the probing Douglas originals “Small Bar” and “Third Dream,” are all trio with what amounts to the Tiny Bell instrumentation with trumpet, guitar and drums.

“I saw Charles Lloyd’s group at festivals in the past couple years,” Douglas reveals, “and hearing him play ‘Blood Count’ really hit me in the gut. Looking closely at Strayhorn for this project was part of keeping rooted in the real world of human beings, flesh and blood and heart and soul, although I have no exclusive claim to any of it.” (Some tour dates are to feature guitarist Ava Mendoza, who has proposed an additional slate of Strayhorn tunes for the live setting.) 

While Marching Music was explicitly about protest, looking outward and taking literally to the streets, Gifts is about finding sustenance in one’s immediate surroundings, and inside oneself. “To really focus on music and the arts can feel like looking away from the world,” Douglas avers, “but it’s not. The gift of working on this record was to feel that, ‘No, this is actually essential. ’Music and art are part of our human inheritance, our blessing in being on the planet at this time, among all the struggles. And in playing this music, we are not looking away.”

Track Listing:

  1. Gifts
  2. Kind of Teal
  3. Take the A Train
  4. Rain Check
  5. Blood Count
  6. Day Dream
  7. Seven Years Ago
  8. Small Bar
  9. Third Dream
  10. Goodbyes


Dave Douglas – Trumpet
Rafiq Bhatia – Guitar
James Brandon Lewis – Saxophone
Ian Chang – Drums

Production Credits:

Recorded on December 11, 2023 @ The Bunker in Brooklyn NY

Recorded, mixed + mastered by Tyler McDiarmid
Asissted by Nolan Thies
Executive Produced by Dave Douglas
Art + Design by Lukas Frei
Photos by Geoff Countryman

Tracks 1,2,7,8,9,10 – written by Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas Music / BMI

Tracks 3,4,5,6 – written by Billy Strayhorn
Bill Strayhorn Songs Inc.


“Both the chemistry and the imagination of its creators make GIFTS yet another standout in Douglas’ catalog…”– Michael Toland, The Big Takeover

“Dave Douglas GIFTS emerges not merely as a collection of tracks, but as an opulent gala in honor of the eternal essence of music…” – Glen Astarita, All About Jazz

“GIFTS is consistently great and already a candidate for album of the year.” – Rolf Thomas, Jazz Thing

“Together they create a strangely beautiful symmetry, a celebration of the blessings of life and music .”
– Filipe Freitas, Jazz Trail

Press Inquiries

Matt Merewitz
Fully Altered Media


Twitter: @davedouglas
Facebook: @davedouglasmusic
Instagram: @davedouglas