Moonshine (Greenleaf Music)
Dave Douglas and Keystone
Released November 25, 2007
Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2007
Moonshine, the newest album from trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas’ Grammy-nominated band Keystone, is an album that moves musical genres forward into uncharted territory. The evolutionary, revolutionary aspect is found in the vibrant alchemy between Douglas’ avant-garde leaning compositions, the relentless, polyrhythmic funk of drummer Gene Lake and bassist Brad Jones, the Sun-Ra-esque sonics of Adam Benjamin who plays a highly modulated Fender Rhodes and the post-post blowing of the front line featuring Douglas and saxophonist Marcus Strickland. But what puts this one over the top is the true integration of a DJ, in this case DJ Olive, into the constantly shifting improvisations of a cutting edge band. Rolling Stone called Keystone’s 2005’s self titled album, “a modernist requiem.” Moonshine takes it a step further: a modernist recipe for the future sound of electronics, jazz, and new composition.
“I think of it as Green Beat,” says Douglas with a grin, referring to the organic way that the rhythms of vinyl, laptop, and drum set coalesce in this infectious, grooving new album. One forgets all the elements that go into this hybrid music, as each piece amounts to a masterpiece of modern jazz-informed composition and performance. There are many details buried in these tracks, and perhaps the most remarkable thing is that the basis for this recording was a single performance in front of a live studio audience. The state-of-the-art mutli-track recording of this session makes possible a hybrid of the best parts of studio isolation and live excitement. It allowed Greenleaf Music to raise to the highest level the post-production of these recordings.
1. Dog Star 5:01
2. Moonshine 7:30
3. Married Life 9:43
4. Silent Stars 8:39
5. Scopes 2:39
6. Flood Plane 7:42
7. Kitten 4:23
8. Tough 10:54
Dave Douglas: trumpet
Marcus Strickland: saxophones
Adam Benjamin: keyboards
Brad Jones: bass
Gene Lake: drums
DJ Olive: turntables
Recorded May 4, 2007 at the Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray Jazz Festival, Ireland
Additional Recording at Kerseboom Studios, Los Angeles, California
Produced by Dave Douglas
Edited, Mixed, and Mastered by Geoff Countryman and Tyler McDiarmid
Film Stills from “Moonshine,” 1917 Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton
Graphic Design by Al Brandtner
It’s unlikely that Dave Douglas expected
the Grammy-nominated Keystone (Greenleaf Music,
2005) to turn into an ongoing project, but as a parallel to his quintet of the
past half decade, the trumpeter has forged a distinct entity with the group he
now calls Keystone. This sextet shares some commonality with the quintet
responsible for Meaning and Mystery (Greenleaf, 2006), but
there are just as many differences, if not more. Moonshine affirms
that Keystone is a band with a very different purpose.
For one thing, Keystone is a far more electric band. Douglas’ quintet also features Fender Rhodes as a defining color, but Adam Benjamin’s heavily processed Rhodes expands Keystone’s textural landscape much further, as do DJ Olive’s turntables. And while both bands groove, Keystone’s Brad Jones (electric bass) and Gene Lake (drums) take Douglas’ sometimes sketch-like, other times detailed compositions into far more fervently propulsive territory. There’s nothing in Douglas’ quintet repertoire that grooves as hard as Moonshine‘s funky title track, or approaches the near-metal of the frenetic “Kitten,” where Benjamin’s overdriven Rhodes sounds more like thrash guitar than electric piano, or the energetic “Tough,” which straddles the line between near-prog and a skewed soul-jazz vibe.
Moonshine also bears the earmarks of extensive post-production editing, a process that Douglas first explored with Freak In (RCA, 2003) but with which he’s become considerably more comfortable with since. While Douglas’ work, no matter what the context—and there have been many in the past fifteen years—is, at the core, about the playing, Moonshine takes his interest in combining group interaction with post-production a step forward. Recorded in front of a live in-studio audience, Moonshine has all the excitement of a live, improvisation-heavy performance and the broader soundscaping that simply can’t be created in real time.
Keystone isn’t just about high
energy, and while its expanded sonics and contemporary ambience are far from
conventional jazz, this is music that couldn’t exist without that tradition as
one stylistic pillar. Douglas and saxophonist Marcus Strickland solo with an
advanced language bearing precedence in what’s come before; there are even
brief moments during the twists and turns of “Married Life” that
actually swing, although they come between more ominous grooves and denser
Again inspired by a Fatty Arbuckle film—albeit one distanced from the more outrageous slapstick of the misunderstood and misrepresented comedian’s peers—Moonshine is as forward-thinking as its predecessor. But it’s equally rooted in the present, with DJ Olive’s samples of George W. Bush speaking the word “terrorist” interspersed with a plaintive Middle Eastern chant making this the most overtly politicized music Douglas has made since Witness (RCA, 2001).
What makes Moonshine ultimately such a success, however, is Douglas’ ability to cloak avant-garde concerns in accessible surroundings. As deep and challenging as anything he’s ever recorded, Moonshine remains an album that’s as much food for the heart and soul as it is for the mind, and continues Douglas’ remarkably unbroken string of superb and uncompromising releases.
John Kelman (All About Jazz)