Courtesy of Dave Douglas
CHAT WITH DAVE DOUGLAS
With age, I have adopted the position of respecting two levels of music
- good and bad. Miles Davis updated his music with the times (explaining,
"I have to change. It's a curse."). Similarly, Dave Douglas
has done the same. And although hasty comparisons depreciate both, their
legacies can be summarized as good and bad. While Douglas (unedited and
in his own words) continues to shape his approach, an analysis identifies
it as simply being good.
FRED JUNG: Strange Liberation features the finest Chris Potter solos on
DAVE DOUGLAS: "Seventeen" is so outrageous. I can't get enough
of that. I think you get to know a player and you start to write things
that you think will engage them. Hopefully, it facilitates them to go
and do something. Another thing that I thought of was that sometimes when
you're a sideman on a record date, all you have to think about is just
playing and I know for myself, certain record dates I've gone in and just
played the solo and that was all I had to do. And in a way, it was a lot
easier then when it's your own record. Maybe it is just that Chris was
able to walk in with his horn and play those outrageous solos.
FJ: What is the significance of Strange Liberation?
DD: There is a couple meanings for me. I was listening to the recording
and listening to what Uri played and what Bill was doing, especially Clarence
and James, it just seemed like there was this freedom that everybody was
playing in such a way, you could almost just play any note and it would
work. But at the same time, it was all new music that I had just brought
in to them. Some of it is a little tricky, I have to apologize. So the
sense of exhilaration was an odd thing, hence the title. It was also something
that I had just read in a famous speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, who
was speaking out against the Vietnam War in 1967. It said that the Vietnamese
must think of us as strange liberators. You know that I am involved in
political causes. You know that a lot of us are uneasy about what's going
on in Washington. So it was also a reference of my discomfort with what
is going on and knowing that there is an election coming up and that we
could get Bush out of there is kind of exciting for me.
FJ: It should be clarified that Strange Liberation is not a political
DD: It is not a political record, but I also feel that we create in this
atmosphere of what is going on in the world. It is not that I am sitting
here saying that Saddam was great or that I don't support all these Americans
that are down there under threat of great violence and terror. But it
is not like I feel like making music is divorced from my concerns about
all those other things.
FJ: Having considerably toured outside the country, has the world's impression
of America deteriorated during the current administration?
DD: I don't think there is any doubt of that. I think that is a well documented
occurrence from opinion polls that I have seen that were taken in Europe
and around the world. We've decided that international agreements and
forums don't matter to us, that those kinds of rules by which the world
works don't apply in our case. I think there is a lot of unease about
that and I know that when I travel, people ask me what is going on why
these choices are being made in this country.
FJ: Bill Frisell guests on the record.
DD: I wrote with Bill in mind and that was really hard because he is one
of my favorite composers. I've been listening to Bill since the mid-Eighties.
Back in '87, I was fresh out of college and I had been touring with Horace
Silver and going out and hearing Bill's band all the time back when he
had the quartet with Joey Baron, Hank Roberts, and Kermit Driscoll, and
I actually called him then to see if he would do a recording with me.
I didn't have a deal or any gigs or anything. Unfortunately for me, he
was already too busy to be dealing with someone in that position. So this
was a fulfillment of that wish, to get to really write some music for
Bill to play and to integrate him with this quintet that has been touring.
FJ: You are also returning as the artistic director of The Banff International
Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music.
DD: It has really been an amazing learning experience for me. When I first
went there, Kenny Werner was directing the program. He invited me a couple
of times before I went because I felt like I didn't have anything to teach.
So the first time I went, I was really terrified. I could tell someone
to not blow out their chops during the first song of the gig. Then there
is two hours left in the master class, what do you do from there? I felt
like I didn't have anything to share. I went in and started talking about
music and people started asking questions and I thought about all these
issues that I was just operating on, but had never really described. So
it caused me to sit down and reflect and think about the principles of
what I do and why I do it. I went back a few times when Kenny was still
in charge and every year, I felt more comfortable. So when he decided
to move on, they asked me to take over the program. It is great. Bill
Frisell is coming up for a week. Clarence Penn and James Genus are going
to come. Jason Moran is coming. George Lewis is coming and Sam Rivers
is going to come and bring big band charts of all his music. I feel like
I am going to learn as much as anybody else.
FJ: And the future?
DD: I will be on the West Coast in May. I didn't go into this album thinking
I would have a working band. Bill is much to busy as a leader to be doing
that. Some of the guys in the quintet are almost to busy to be doing it,
but thank God, they are able to be on the tour. I am really looking forward
to it. Last year, this clarinet player from France named Louis Sclavis
came as a special guest and so I recorded something with him that will
come out in the middle of 2004. I'm working on a new electronic record
and trying to teach myself the computer language that I would need to
do that. It is a long process, but sometime at the end of next year, there
will be a follow up to Freak In. I want to go further into that, not in
a rock and roll, commercial sense, but in a creative music way and see
how technology can interact and create something.
FJ: New Year's wishes?
DD: I'm getting married in 2004 and moving. I am trying to make time to
do all of that properly for myself. For the world, I think people know
how I feel about the government in Washington. So I hope that people are
better interested in creative music and also interested in creative government
and help make changes.
Fred Jung is the Editor-In-Chief and is Wang Chunging tonight. Comments?