Secular Psalms is a new Dave Douglas studio album featuring a newly commissioned suite of ten pieces, with an entirely new group of young international musicians.

Available now on CD and digital.

Released on April 1, 2022.

Secular Psalms is a new Dave Douglas studio album featuring a newly commissioned suite of ten pieces, with an entirely new group of young international musicians. Invited by the City of Gent and Handelsbeurs Theater to commemorate 600 years since the creation of the Gent Altarpiece by Jan Van Eyck, Douglas branches out into new instruments like the serpent, lute, organ and sampler, providing a painterly panorama of new sounds. Drawing on Latin Mass, on early medieval folk songs, on composers of the period, like Guillaume DuFay, and on jazz and improvised music, Douglas and team deliver a lyrical, mystical, spiritual score full of upbeat optimism for our times. Douglas says the title refers to “songs of praise for all of us.” For this project he has invited musicians Tomeka Reid, Marta Warelis, Berlinde Deman, Frederick Leroux and Lander Gyselinck. A surprising and uplifting release created during these pandemic times.

Liner Notes

Inspired by and dedicated to The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Jan and Hubert van Eyck – a polyptych originally painted for display in St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium. Begun in the mid 1420s and completed by 1432.

Secular Psalms took shape over a medieval-seeming time span. The first messages from Wim date to July 10, 2018, when we began to formulate a plan to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Altarpiece with creation of new music. Research led to a few discoveries: elements of the polyptych were moved and/or stolen, then almost entirely recovered over the years. A restoration begun in 2012 discovered that the work had been mostly overpainted around 1550—removal of the overpaint revealed an almost entirely new contemporary vision of the piece.

The Van Eyck worked in the court of Philip The Good of Burgundy, speaking multiple languages. It’s likely they would have encountered composer Guillaume Dufay and writer Christine de Pisan in the same court. Bringing in elements of both these artists helped give me a connection to the atmosphere of those times. With a band and instrumentation in place, we were on our way.

Then all work came to a halt. Initially, like for so many of us, it was unclear how work would carry on. I kept writing. The meaning of the piece (and the title) took on a new scope as we dealt with the global crisis. Close communication with the assembled musicians, shut down in their own home countries, helped cement the message and the meaning of Secular Psalms: sacred songs for all of us as we are. We continued working. The first parts were recorded around May 2020. Over the course of a year and a half, my score came to life as I worked with each musician to create their performances. New techniques had to be invented to capture interactive improvisations. And new texts came in as I began to write them myself, in addition to the Latin Mass, Marvin Gaye, and Christine de Pisan.

This music came to life as a result of many forces: artistic, spiritual, pragmatic, physical, psychic, poetic, and interpersonal. In a visual sense, the piece begins in the space of the outer panels, with muted colors and dank interiors. Subsequent sections explore the inner panels, full of light, showing people from all walks of life. With Edge of Night, the piece returns to the mysterious and darker panels of the Arrival, where Van Eyck’s Gabriel and Mary play out this mystery for all eternity.

Very special thanks to Wim Wabbes of Handelsbeurs for staying with me through the long process of getting this piece made. Thanks to Keller Coker for talking me through the matrix of Dufay. Thanks to Tyler McDiarmid for being available to go through the countless sound and tech issues as they arose. Thanks to all the musicians for your patience, persistence, and belief in me. Thanks also to my entire family of loved ones, friends, colleagues, correspondents. We hung together through this and we will always have each other eternally. I am grateful for this most of all.

Dave Douglas, New York, August 2021

Track Details

1. Arrival
2. Mercy
3. We Believe
4. Agnus Dei
5. Instrumental Angels
6. If I’m In Church More Often Now
7. Hermits and Pilgrims
8. Righteous Judges
9. Ah Moon
10. Edge of Night

Total time: 53:07


Dave Douglas, trumpet, voice
Berlinde Deman, serpent, tuba, voice
Marta Warelis, piano, prepared piano, pump organ
Frederik Leroux, guitars, lute, electronics
Tomeka Reid, cello
Lander Gyselinck, drums, electronics

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Dave Douglas
Produced by Dave Douglas
Recorded separately by each musician between May 2020 and August 2021
Berlinde Deman vocals recorded by Koen Gisen in Ghent, Belgium
Tomeka Reid recorded by Ralph Loza, Experimental Sounds Studios, Chicago
Marta Warelis piano recorded by Jasper Stadhouders at Splendor, Amsterdam
Ms. Warelis pump organ recorded by Marielle Groven at Orgelpark, Amsterdam

Edited and Mixed by Tyler McDiarmid and Dave Douglas
Mastered by Tyler McDiarmid
Altarpiece Photography / Images courtesy Sint-Baafskathedraal Gent, www.artsinflanders.be, Dominique Provost
Graphic design by Lukas Frei

All compositions and arrangements by Dave Douglas (Dave Douglas Music / BMI)
Commissioned by Handelsbeurs Concert hall (Gent, Belgium), in co production with KAAP/Concertgebouw Brugge; Jazzfest Berlin; November Music. With the additional support of the City of Ghent and Baloise Insurance.


Douglas clearly believes in the power of prayer, and Secular Psalms goes so far as to answer his own invocation for a better world.” – Michael Tolland, The Big Takeover

Dave Douglas and his acolytes deliver a lyrical, mystical and spiritual score full of cheerful optimism.” – Alex Dutilh, Radio France

Sculpted with total commitment and artistic imagination, this richly layered offering is far from your traditional jazz record, but deserves to be singled out for the musical characteristics achieved.” – Philipe Freitas, Jazz Trail ★★★★

This is an elegant mix of medieval, classical, and modern jazz music, and the combination is as mysterious as it is swinging… It is definitely a high point of 2022.” – Paul Medrano, Best of Jazz

Douglas fans can rest assured that it will stand out as one of his most accomplished [recordings].” – John Garratt, PopMatters 8/10

Contemporary flourishes surface on every track… The 10-part work comes together, which is a tribute to Douglas’s strength of vision.” – Mike Hobart, Financial Times

Another brilliant chapter in Douglas’ already very impressive catalog.” – Tor Hammerø, Nettavisen

“Go ahead—try to keep up with the musical imagination and restlessness of Dave Douglas, I dare you.”
– Will Layman, PopMatters

“This is a major and important work in which Douglas has integrated very successfully various sounds and textures … to create a very fitting tribute to an important work of art.”
– Tony Dudley-Evans, LondonJazz News

“This isn’t religious music, exactly; it doesn’t take traditional hymnlike forms, but on a piece like “Agnus Dei,” Reid’s cello surges, with Leroux’s guitar and Warelis’s piano providing support as Deman sings softly, with Douglas harmonizing like a soft echo, barely audible beside her. His voice on the trumpet, by contrast, is fierce and powerful.”
– Phil Freeman, Stereogum – The Month in Jazz

“The album stands out in the trumpeter’s oeuvre not only because it’s an amazing collection of music and performances but also because … the songs, messages, and instrumental experimentation gives the listener deep insight into the trumpeter’s inner life.”
– Richard Kamins, Step Tempest

“This album is filled with truly stunning interludes of beauty and intensity.”
– Dave Sumner, Bandcamp Daily – The Best Jazz on Bandcamp – April 2022

“‘Edge Of Night,’ … artfully pairs Deman’s rich tenor with the distorted low-end bowing of Tomeka Reid’s cello to create the nocturnal atmosphere of its title.”
– Ammar Kalia, Downbeat

Press Inquiries

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