There's no reason to think that, based on their respective discographies alone, Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas would not perform well together. Career-long they have both set themselves in different jazz contexts and found ways to shape every collaboration I've heard, and both their compositions and their improvisational outreach are not narrowly focused.
|4/5 of Sound Prints: Penman, Douglas, Royston, Lovano. |
Such invective suggested that these two white musicians might not feel comfortable together. Yet Sound Prints has been going for nine years, so I was skeptical of Crouch's praise of one leader, dismissal of the other — as I was of so much of his criticism, as compulsively readable as it often was. How could these seasoned front men possibly be incompatible, except to a critic with an axe to grind?
Of course, it turns out Sound Prints, which explicitly draws inspiration from Wayne Shorter, displays the thorough compatibility of Lovano and Douglas, judging from the third of four sets the band played this weekend at the Jazz Kitchen. On the tour, the rhythm section consists of Leo Genovese, piano; Matt Penman, bass, and Rudy Royston, drums. (Penman made a strong impression when the SFJazz Collective played the Kitchen in 2017.)
It took me a while to settle into the kind of assault Sound Prints is capable of. Penman's first solo, ruminatively toggling between crucially separated notes, pointed toward a positive direction. Lovano, in one of his cogent, less intense moods, elaborated on the bassist's suggestion. Genovese's abstract, single-line solo could have done with less aggressive drumming.
Later, Royston accompanied the pianist with more restraint, and actually helped Genovese's florid, untethered style make sense to me. I continued not to connect solidly with Genovese, in whose favor it must be said that he favors unpredictability: His solo on "Full Moon" (the set-ender and the only announced tune) called up Dave Brubeck, of all people, in its chordal parade.
The quintet worked well together. For all their occasional movements to the outside, the solos were tidy and tended to be rounded off without needless flourishes. Tempos flowed and shifted logically; a few themes built upon unison, bop-based lines took in much more as they progressed. The contrapuntal patterning sometimes set up between Lovano and Douglas was exciting.
A few words must be said here in defense of Douglas, given what some readers might feel is my needless reference above to a deceased critic. Of course he is no candidate for being liquefied on the bandstand, whatever Crouch may have meant by that image. He can touch on the blues roots of the music when he wants to, but seems to feel no yearning to be slavishly devoted to them.
In Sunday's first set, I liked how he varied the color spectrum of his tone, and, as his recordings indicate, he showed great freedom in leaping between registers. Douglas resists the tendency of trumpeters to make a big deal of going up high; he just all of a sudden will ascend for a phrase or two, then plunge deftly back into mid-range. The soloing is edgy without preening, and at other times credibly lyrical without swooning.
Like Lovano, he has a voice all his own on his instrument. His range of collaborations has not spread him too thin, as far as I can tell; the personality is strong, but not set in stone. Both Sound Prints leaders bring to this band their adaptability and wide expressive range. The rhythm section jelled around them dependably in the music they played here Sunday. Sound Prints left firm footprints at the Jazz Kitchen.
[Photo by Rob Ambrose]