Facts and Fictions

One of the most inspiring aspects of writing for Alarm Will Sound is being part of the enormous breadth of the work they do. They concurrently engage with many different composers and with varying presentational ideas, it’s simply breathtaking. Articulately-limbed Alan Pierson, conductor, first approached me to write for the band, and having seen him conduct I knew I wanted to give him a special role in the context of leading the orchestra. Just a matter of how.

“Facts and Fictions”, my new piece, will premiere in St. Louis at the The Sheldon Concert Hall on May 10, alongside other new creations, presented by Alarm Will Sound. There are new pieces by DJ and producer King Britt as well as by composer Marcos Balter. There will also be new music from drummer, colleague and friend Tyshawn Sorey. Can’t wait to hear all this music. The band is astounding.

Written for 16 musicians and conductor, the band is divided into four ensembles of four players each. Each of the sub-groups has some autonomy as to how they perform the material. After an initial tutti, the music is written as a series of ‘panels,’ in which each group has an orchestration of similar musical material. The panels can be played simultaneously, in phases, or in complete rub against the other ensembles and sets of material. The idea is to allow for endless discovery within the emerging materials. It is also to open up an avenue for real time intervention for Alan, and give the ensemble members some freedom in decision making.

Terry Winters
Untitled, 2011
Graphite on paper
11 x 8 1/2 inches
27.9 x 21.6 cm

I got the idea for the ‘panels’ from a project done by the artist, Terry Winters. Last spring, for The Drawing Center’s 2018 Gala, Winters created a dynamically generated animation that was projected on the wall at the IAC building. The projection featured 78 of Winters’s drawings from his Drawing Center exhibition, Facts and Fictions. The drawings were projected in such a way that one would appear for about 15 seconds then slowly fade away as another drawing came into focus. This created endless variations in the overlap and cycling of the drawings. At the time, I was already beginning to wrestle with this piece, and the visual stimulus triggered me to find a model for the new work.

Terry Winters
Untitled, 2016
Graphite and colored pencil on paper
20 x 28 inches
50.8 x 71.1 cm

The rehearsals last week were exhilarating. The ensemble members dug in to the loam of improvising with the energy and feeling. Alan tried about 25 different ways of re-combining the panels. I know that the rehearsals and premiere in May will conjure up many more avenues. It’s written for the players/improvisers — written in a new and different way. Hearing them play makes me proud to be part of a continuum of composition for improvisers.

It was a bittersweet week as they were also playing the works of their gone too soon colleague Matt Marks. The rehearsal pieces I heard were brilliantly orchestrated and funny. It was a powerful tribute to a great artist and composer and it was an honor to watch and hear. Knowing how close Matt was to all of them made the music even more poignant. I hope these works have a long and influential life.

Dave Douglas, New York, March 2019


Tea at The St. Regis

This great piece on Henry Threadgill brought up the name Steve Backer, a guy I hadn’t thought about in a while, and who I really miss. He had a big impact on my path as a musician, all behind the scenes.

Michael Brecker (L), Steve Backer (R)

Steve was responsible for getting a lot of music recorded at major labels, including mine. He did this at various labels over many years. Mostly involved with modern jazz, Steve worked across a wide spectrum of what that meant, starting in the late 60s right through to the 2000s. He loved all the music, regardless of stylistic direction. He was just a really good guy.

When I first heard from Steve, he would call me up to invite me to Tea at the St. Regis. I thought that was odd, not something I would have ever considered doing. But I figured it was his "thing." And it was kind of fun. Tea and finger sandwiches with American songbook standards played live on solo harp. (That must have been a hell of a gig!)

We discussed a range of topics in food, politics, life, music history, and his vision for where he thought I could be recording and releasing my music. I was inevitably underdressed and overstressed and yet somehow I felt like royalty. Steve was so relaxed, it put you at ease.

If you’ve never been to Tea at the St. Regis, try it sometime. Go around 3 or 4pm on a weekday.

I found out at Steve’s memorial that he didn't have this ritual with anyone else. Nobody else mentioned Tea at the St. Regis. So, did he think it was an environment that would impress me? Or maybe that he knew it was something I couldn’t afford and it would somehow blow me away? Or, maybe that he wanted to give me, at that time a recently graduated street musician, a taste of “the good life?” Or maybe he thought that because I was from Montclair and went to Phillips Exeter that I would somehow expect no less? I’ll never know.

But it was out of those discussions that I got the opportunity to make records like Soul On Soul, A Thousand Evenings, The Infinite, Witness, Freak In, Strange Liberation, and to record my suite of music for the Trisha Brown Dance Company. Over the years I was with RCA, the label head changed about once a year, and the name of the imprint changed, too. But Steve was always around somehow. Once I took him out to dinner and made a point not to go to the St. Regis. He seemed happy with that. Later on, when he got sick, I felt he was really proud of having so many relationships with musicians, facilitating so much music.

When he came to me with the offer from RCA, this normally pretty voluble guy became a man of few words. I was hesitant. He was persistent. I took the deal. Thanks, Steve. Miss you always.


Wood Shedding Season

Was so happy to vote yesterday and to see sanity retake the House of Representatives. We didn't win all the battles, but in terms of diversity and public service, we can count this as a big win.

Meanwhile, this is firewood season. Been splitting and stacking since July, and now the wood shed is almost full and ready for the winter to come. Somehow satisfying to go out and smack those logs around an get them into shape when so much is uncontrollable.

And the wood shed is right outside my composing room, so this process always feeds into my writng. This season no different, putting the finishing touches on a new suite of pieces for the subscription recording series of 2019. Will perform them on December 1st in New York.

And the house will be warm and toasty.


Metamorphosis | Ophiucus

Getting to play with two of my heroes and one great new friend. I first met Fred Frith when he produced the Dr. Nerve record by Nick Didkovsky around 1986. He’s always been of my favorite guitar colorists. I was so grateful to have him on Metamorphosis. Ditto Oliver Lake, who I met somewhat later and have had a few chances to share music with. I so enjoyed conversing with him on this track, which describes the constellation Ophiucus, the serpent bearer, which is also sometimes counted as the thirteenth sign of the Zodiac. Kris Davis is a new colleague for me, and she shines so strongly on this track. A deep listener and another great colorist, she brought so much to this session. There’s a pensive quality to this piece that sets in soon after it comes crashing out of the gate. I cherish each interaction with these three great improvisers.

Greenleaf Subscribers can stream and download Ophiucus on Bandcamp along with all of the tracks from the Metamorphosis series.

Click here to learn more about the Metamorphosis Subscriber Series. Program notes can be found here.

If you’d like to join us a subscriber, visit our Bandcamp subscription page here.


ANFTD #43: Dave Douglas on WKCR 1 of 3

May 24, 2017 Dave was invited as a guest on the WKCR Musician Show with host Matt Landes. It was a three hour broadcast, which A Noise From The Deep is splitting into three episodes of approximately one hour each. Dave’s approach for the show was to play music by trumpeters he admires that you may not have heard of. Episode One includes music by Theljon Allen, Theo Croker, Verneri Pohjola, Oskar Stenmark, Nadje Noordhuis, Kevin Cobb, NO BS Brass Band, and South African flugelhornist Feya Faku.

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Please Do This

Our ever-changing landscape for recorded music makes independent creative music making more challenging and more important than ever. I am convinced that our community needs to exist and that new music will continue to be made for future generations. I am also convinced that our symbiotic community of listeners, music makers and families must stick together and commit to supporting and nurturing each other.

If you have thought about supporting the sustainable model we have created at Greenleaf Music, now would be great time to sign on. At the $25 annual level you can stream the entire catalog, including special Subscription Series releases and other unique content. Other levels also contain physical product and further discounts. It’s great value, and it’s also is crucial to our sustainable creative model. We are 100% advertisement free. You get the direct music from the artist. We created the model with that in mind. We need you to complete the picture. Sign on and enjoy the music and the community.

As one listener commented to me: Shakespeare might call it “a good deed in a naughty world.” The world is tough. We plan to continue making an oasis in music and creative thought. Please take a moment to join us.


Metamorphosis | Lyra

Lyra features our two string players, Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Fred Frith on Guitar. Traveling with Yasushi, I often remark on how the poor guy who offered us his bass must be cringing at the vigor with which Yasushi seems to destroy the instrument. This is his own bass, the sound full and resonant. Fred Frith of course brings an astonishingly varied set of sounds to the table here. Amazing to hear how many different tones he can get, and in so short an amount of time. Grateful to the venerable Fred for having made time for this recording session. Matt Mitchell and Andrew Cyrille punctuate the music with deft fluidity and rhythmic collusion. This track is seventh in the series. Thanks for listening and being a part of our community of artists at Greenleaf.

Greenleaf Subscribers can stream and download Lyra on Bandcamp along with all of the tracks from the Metamorphosis series.

Click here to learn more about the Metamorphosis Subscriber Series. Program notes can be found here.

If you’d like to join us a subscriber, visit our Bandcamp subscription page here.


Metamorphosis | Hercules

Right before this take Andrew Cyrille looked at me from across the studio and said, “Hercules, right?” This track sounds uncannily like the running, charging figure in the constellation. Kris Davis and I had never played together before this session. It was one of the great joys to find this musical dialogue with her through all the kinetic activity of Andrew and Matt Mitchell on modular synth. This was a new instrument for Matt, and it’s kind of amazing how the texture and timbre of his fast moving playing matches the piano and drums. This was an absolutely new configuration for me, and I was grateful to the players for forcing me to find something new to play. The dialogue is astounding to hear several months later.

Hercules is part of the once-a-month releases of the suite Metamorphosis. Subscribers get access to the new track every month, as well as a physical CD at the end of the year. Join us to enjoy the music and help support a sustainable environment for creative music and art. Thank you.

Greenleaf Subscribers can stream and download Hercules on Bandcamp along with all of the tracks from the Metamorphosis series.

Click here to learn more about the Metamorphosis Subscriber Series. Program notes can be found here.

If you’d like to join us a subscriber, visit our Bandcamp subscription page here.


Metamorphosis | Eridanus

Wadada Leo Smith, Oliver Lake, Fred Frith, and Andrew Cyrille. I am humbled by these masters. This is their interpretation of Eridanus, a constellation that zigs and zags, representing the river no mortal eyes have ever seen. I’m not sure this combination of players had ever performed together before this day last December. Not that I know of in any case. This track is a masterful blend of crafty electric guitar textures, coloristic drumming, and simply brilliant sonic adventurousness from both horn players. Surprising unisons, gorgeous use of space, and an amazing climax in the last minute featuring blazing trumpet work from Wadada. Amazing performance that I am proud to share with subscribers to Greenleaf Music who receive these monthly tracks of Metamorphosis.

Greenleaf Subscribers can stream and download Eridanus on Bandcamp along with all of the tracks from the Metamorphosis series.

Click here to learn more about the Metamorphosis Subscriber Series. Program notes can be found here.

If you’d like to join us a subscriber, visit our Bandcamp subscription page here.


Metamorphosis | Delphinus

Wadada Leo Smith, Dave Douglas, Yasushi Nakamura, Matt Mitchell.

I’ve discovered in the course of recording and performing Metamorphosis that I love playing with Wadada Leo Smith. The interaction is profound and instantaneous. Here he plays mostly open horn and I play half harmon muted. We are both sonically and intervallically interweaving with Yasushi’s bowed bass and Matt Mitchell’s modular synthesizer. There are moments where the shape of the constellation Delphinus are clearly apparent. There is also the humor of this dolphin coming to save the day, only to dive back into the deep. This was a truly enjoyable quartet to play in.

I hope you enjoy receiving these tracks every month as we continue to roll out the entire session for you as a subscriber to Greenleaf Music. Thank you.

Greenleaf Subscribers can stream and download Delphinus on Bandcamp along with all of the tracks from the Metamorphosis series.

Click here to learn more about the Metamorphosis Subscriber Series. Program notes can be found here.

If you’d like to join us a subscriber, visit our Bandcamp subscription page here.


ANFTD #41: Joe Lovano

Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas

Joe Lovano talks about his long-time home and session pad in the loft at 23rd Street and 6th Avenue in New York. He also talks about Hank Jones, Paul Motian, and improvisation, and about the spiritual aspect and the spirits in his music. Great thoughts from a great musician.

Music heard in this episode:

Bird’s Eye View - Joe Lovano, Hank Jones, George Mraz, Lewis Nash

Journey Within - Joe Lovano, Lionel Loueke, Otis Brown III, Francisco Mela

Cool, Streams of Expression Pt. 2 - Joe Lovano, Tim Hagans, Barry Ries, Larry Farrell, Steve Slagle, George Garzone, Ralph Lalama, Gary Smulyan, John Hicks, Dennis Irwin, Lewis Nash

Amber - Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas, Mark Dresser

It Should Have Happened A Long Time Ago - Paul Motian Trio: Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell, Paul Motian

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Metamorphosis | Cassiopeia

Cassiopeia is the Queen banished to the night sky as punishment for her vanity. She speeds around the sky off-kilter, clinging to her throne so as not to fall off. Matt Mitchell’s modular synth sets the shape of this performance, limning the angular shape and off-kilter feeling of Cassiopeia. He is joined by Kris Davis on prepared piano and Andrew Cyrille mostly on mallets. Wadada Leo Smith soon joins them on harmon-muted trumpet, providing intervallic shapes in contrast to the electronic and percussive textures. Pure of tone, Wadada plays one of the most direct, poignant solos I’ve heard, drifting off into nothingness at the end.

Greenleaf Subscribers can stream and download Cassiopeia on Bandcamp along with all of the tracks from the Metamorphosis series.

Click here to learn more about the Metamorphosis Subscriber Series. Program notes can be found here.

If you’d like to join us a subscriber, visit our Bandcamp subscription page here.