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Tag Archives: dave douglas

Watch out, your foot will be cold too.

So, after a short break from writing blogs for this site like eeery day, we are back in action. The tune we are going to discuss today was written by a personal hero of mine, composer and trumpeter Dave Douglas. The tune is titled Gumshoe. Here is a link of the video of us playing this tune in the rehearsal room in which we usually rehearse. Check it out now and come back and read. Or, read first. Do what ever you want, GEEZ.

The reason the guys thought I should be the one to blog about this is because I had the opportunity to hang around Dave Douglas for a few days in mid April this year (2010). I sort of just followed him around like a creepy stalker. Where he was eating, drinking, giving master classes, rehearsing, playing shows, I was there. It was kind of super awesome. Its a really weird experience when you get to hang around the person you’ve been idolizing in music for just short of a decade. Dave is truly (in case you haven’t been paying attention) the most prolific jazz trumpeter/composer of our time. (no, that is not arguable, it is fact). He’s just that amazing.*

Anyways, Dave and I got to talk a bit (well, actually I just listened and drooled a little) during the many lunches and dinners we had together and much of what he talked about was music I did not know. He was talking about artists and composers I had never even heard of. The guy’s knowledge of music outside of jazz is absolutely stunning, and is part of the reason why I believe a piece like Gumshoe happened in the first place. And what I mean by that is, I think because of his knowledge of other musics and his familiarity with “classical” instruments, he has the incite and motivation to create unique sounding jazz that is at once a chamber ensemble and a jazz group; a tux wearing nose-in-the-air classical ensemble, and a NYC living moose the mooch listening jazz combo. Brilliant.

Dave composed this piece for a record called Mountain Passages. If you don’t have it, get it. We do a couple of tunes from this record actually, because the music was originally written for a band with a less conventional instrumentation (similar to Lulu’s Playground). It was written for Trumpet, Cello, Reeds (clarinet/bass clarinet/alto sax all played by same guy), Tuba, and Drum Set. As I am sure you can imagine, it transferred nicely to our instrumentation.

We arranged the tune as a band. The first statement of the melody is done loosely in unison between the accordion and trumpet. The cello and guitar are playing the bass line, and there are no chords being played. The second time through the tune we switch things up and the accordion takes the bass line, Cello plays the melody pizz (plucking the strings) and I improvise. I think Evan is making some ambient noise as well. Evan joins accordion when the melody line splits near then end of the form.

Now, the third time we state the melody is, in my opinion, the coolest time. The tune is in 2/4 time, but on the third statement of the melody, we change the feel in to 6/8. We do this by embellishing the bass line and making them triplets (one two three, one two three) over the 2/4, which ends up sounding like 6/8. (stay with me here). Evan then changes the way the melody is played so it fits in to a 6/8 feel and greg plays some crazy stuff dividing the 6/8 in to groups of two and doing a slower “one two three.” You can hear this change at 2:36 in the video. WOE, RIGHT!?

Anyways. We end the tune by stating the second half of the melody in a very emotional climax, and then continuing on in our emo fashion we play the entire beginning to the melody completely in unison. I personally love the sound of us all playing in unison because we have to really be in tune with each other and be able to feel the internal time/groove that is going on so we can all play together in perfect time. The same approach a brass quintet or string quartet would take when playing chamber classical music.

Here’s the vid again.

That is all.

*Sorry for yet another crazy stalker fan boy moment.