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Dave Douglas arguably became the most original trumpeter/composer of his generation. Douglas' stylistic range is broad yet unaffected; his music is not a pastiche, but rather a personal aesthetic that reflects a wide variety of interests. He explicitly cites such diverse influences as Igor Stravinsky, Stevie Wonder, and John Coltrane. As a composer, Douglas adapts and synthesizes unusual forms and creates his own out of disparate elements. As a trumpeter, he possesses a comprehensive jazz technique; certainly one hears the ghost of Lester Bowie in Douglas' expressive manipulations of timbre and pitch, but more pronounced is the integration of distinctive compositional and improvisational conceptions that ultimately defines his work.
Douglas grew up in the New York City area. He started playing piano at the age of five, then trombone at seven before discovering the trumpet at nine. He learned jazz harmony in high school and began playing improvised music as an exchange student in Barcelona, Spain. From 1981 to 1983 he studied in Boston, first at the Berklee School of Music, then the New England Conservatory. He moved to New York City in 1984, where he attended New York University and studied with Carmine Caruso. In 1987, he toured Europe with Horace Silver. The early '90s saw Douglas begin to record in earnest; he led or co-led dates for the Hat Art, Soul Note, New World, and Arabesque labels. His various bands included the Tiny Bell Trio, a self-described "jazz-Balkan-improv" group with drummer Jim Black and guitarist Brad Shepik (who used the surname Schoeppach at the time); his String Group, which included violinist Mark Feldman, cellist Erik Friedlander, bassist Mark Dresser, and drummer Michael Sarin; and his Quartet and Sextet, which included drummer Joey Baron. Also busy as a sideman, he could be heard during this period on recordings by Patricia Barber, Myra Melford, Anthony Braxton, and John Zorn (particularly the latter's original Masada quartet), among others, and the trumpeter has continued such collaborations through to the end of the new millennium's first decade.
Douglas began recording for RCA in 2000 with a tribute to jazz pianist Mary Williams titled Soul on Soul, a Down Beat Album of the Year award-winner that markedly enhanced the trumpeter's profile on the jazz scene. That same year A Thousand Evenings, featuring accordionist Guy Klucevsek, was released, followed by El Trilogy and Witness in 2001. It was with Witness that Douglas began to broaden his already eclectic scope, incorporating electronic-savvy improvisers like Jamie Saft and Ikue Mori, as he had first begun to investigate with the samplers of Anthony Coleman and Yuka Honda on 1997's Sanctuary. His next album, The Infinite, featured a more familiar sound but surprising covers of songs by Rufus Wainwright and Björk. Freak In, a more electronic-oriented effort, was released in 2003.
Douglas began his own Greenleaf Music label in 2003 and introduced it with the Mountain Passages album, released in early 2005 by a new aggregation, Dave Douglas & Nomad. Next came yet another new ensemble for the trumpeter, Keystone, which released an eponymous CD/DVD tribute to Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle produced by Douglas and David Torn, also in 2005. The Dave Douglas Quintet (featuring an electrified Uri Caine on Fender Rhodes) releases Meaning and Mystery and Live at the Jazz Standard arrived in 2006 and 2007, followed by the Keystone group's Moonshine in 2008. In 2009, Douglas returned with Spirit Moves by his latest grouping, the brass ensemble Brass Ecstasy.
In 2010, he collaborated with experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison to reinterpret the film Frankenstein for its 100th anniversary. Morrison recontextualized the film using new, archival, and distressed footage, while Douglas wrote an original score. The project was entitled Spark of Being. In addition to a soundtrack of the same name, Douglas and his Keystone group recorded two more albums and created a box set, though titles were available individually as well. Spark of Being: Expand was released in August of 2010, and featured the band playing extended but "straight" versions of the cues used in the soundtrack. The final volume, Spark of Being: Burst, included themes recorded during the original soundtrack sessions, but were never used in the film. It followed in September of that year.
In 2011, Douglas issued three "EPs" on Greenleaf Music: the first, entitled Rare Metals, showcased five tunes by Brass Ecstasy; the second, Orange Afternoons, showcased a quintet with Ravi Coltrane, Vijay Iyer, Linda Oh, and Marcus Gilmore. The final disc, Bad Mango, featured Douglas performing with So Percussion. The three titles were originally issued only as digital downloads, but were assembled for a physical CD release in box form in November. In 2012, Douglas released a new quintet offering entitled Be Still. The album was a collection of new tunes and hymns that featured vocalist Aoife O'Donovan along with the group's lineup of saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh, and drummer Rudy Royston. In 2013, Douglas returned with the same quintet, minus O'Donovan, for the album Time Travel.
Dave Douglas (b. March 24, 1963) is an American jazz trumpeter and composer whose music derives from many non-jazz musical styles, including classical music, folk music from European countries and Klezmer. He has been a member of the experimental big band Orange Then Blue. Douglas is currently the director of the Festival of New Trumpet Music, which is held annually in New York City.
Since 1993, Douglas has recorded more than twenty albums as a bandleader. He has also performed and recorded with dozens of musicians, perhaps most notably with various John Zorn ensembles. With his own groups, Douglas has pioneered new settings for the trumpet in jazz. In more recent years, he has explored collaborations involving modern dance, spoken word/poetry, and film.
Early years 
Douglas grew up in the New York City area and attended Phillips Exeter Academy, a private high school in New Hampshire. He discovered jazz while on an abroad program in Spain. After graduating from high school in 1981, he studied at the Berklee School of Music and New England Conservatory, both located in Boston, Massachusetts.
In 1984, Douglas moved to New York to study at New York University (NYU) and finished a degree in music. Meanwhile, he played with a variety of ensembles and came to the attention of the well-respected jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader, Horace Silver, with whom he toured Europe in 1987.
In 1993, Douglas began performing with John Zorn in his Masada quartet, which blended the influences of saxophonist/composer Ornette Coleman with Jewish folk musics. The band became one of Zorn's most long-standing and popular ensembles, and brought Douglas wider attention.
Since the mid 90s, Douglas has led a variety of groups simultaneously. His first album as a leader, Parallel Worlds (1993), featured the composer backed by a string trio performing his own compositions and music by Webern, Kurt Weill and Stravinsky. Meanwhile Douglas formed two new groups, the Tiny Bell Trio, and his sextet. The former performs what Douglas calls "Balkan improvisations." It is unusual in its instrumentation (trumpet, guitar, drums) and blends Eastern European folk influences with jazz. The Sextet features the classic instrumentation of trumpet, tenor sax, trombone, piano, bass, and drums. This group focuses on the music of great jazz composers and Douglas pieces inspired by those musicians. Their first release was a tribute to the late trumpeter Booker Little.
In 1996, Douglas recorded Sanctuary with Cuong Vu, Anthony Coleman, and other musicians of the New York downtown scene of the time. The group involved sampling and DJ improvisations in addition to jazz.
In 1997, Douglas started a quartet featuring trumpet, violin, accordion, and bass which recorded Charms of the Night Sky incorporating Eastern European and Jewish folk musics as well as jazz influences on the music, which is generally mellow and relaxed. The album included a number of tracks with Douglas and accordionist Guy Klucevsek performing as a duo. A second album by the Charms of the Night Sky group, A Thousand Evenings was released in 2000.
Also in 1997, Douglas founded another quartet. The Dave Douglas Quartet performs wild, freewheeling music, influenced by the bands of Ornette Coleman and John Zorn.
2000s SFJAZZ Collective—from left to right: Andre Hayward, Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano and Miguel Zenón at the North Sea Jazz Festival of 2007. Photo by Siebe van Ineveld
In 2000, Douglas released Soul on Soul, a tribute to composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams featuring original arrangements of her music for the sextet and new pieces inspired by her work. Douglas also released albums featuring Charms of the Night Sky and the Dave Douglas Quartet in the same year.
In the early years of the decade, Douglas worked often with the Trisha Brown Dance Company. El Trilogy, an extended musical work accompanying modern dance, was performed from 2000-2001.
Witness, an ambitious nine-part suite, was released in 2001. It features a band made up of trumpet, sax, two electric pianos, electronic percussion, bass, and drums. Douglas's music had always been informed by his political concerns, but this album was his most ambitious attempt to give them musical form, often by celebrating his political and cultural heroes through dedications and track titles. The album includes a 20 minute track entitled "Mahfouz" in which gravel-voiced singer Tom Waits reads an excerpt from the works of Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz, as well as pieces dedicated to Edward Said and Taslima Nasrin.
More recently, Douglas founded the Dave Douglas New Quintet and Nomad. The Quintet is a trumpet and tenor sax-led group but with Fender Rhodes electric piano. Their first album, The Infinite (2001) featured Douglas originals and pieces by or inspired by popular musicians Rufus Wainwright and Thom Yorke. This was followed up by 2004's Strange Liberation by the same group with special guest Bill Frisell on guitar. Formed in 2003, Nomad is made up of trumpet, clarinet, cello, tuba, and drums. With this band, Douglas performed his suite Mountain Passages, commissioned for the Italian Sound of the Dolomites Festival, and released as the first album on Douglas' record label Greenleaf Music in 2005. The suite features a variety of different influences including Italian Ladino music, New Orleans jazz, and other musics, and is to be played from 9 to 12,000 feet above sea level.
Douglas has also started a new band called Keystone, which performs works influenced by the silent film actor and director Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle. The project includes pieces to be performed with Arbuckle's films. This ensemble is made up of trumpet, tenor sax, Wurlitzer (electric piano), turntables, electric bass, and drums. A CD of this music – accompanied by a DVD with two Arbuckle shorts – was released in 2005.
2006 saw Douglas release Meaning and Mystery, where he plays again with his quintet, now with Donny McCaslin in place of Chris Potter on saxophones. In December 2006, Greenleaf Music recorded all the quintet's performances over a six-night engagement at New York's Jazz Standard jazz club called Live at the Jazz Standard (Complete Book), making the two-hour-long sets the band played each night available for download from the company's website within 24 hours. The 44 compositions, almost all of them by Douglas alongside covers of Rufus Wainwright, Mary J. Blige and Björk, featured 14 tunes not previously recorded by the band. Those 14 new compositions were released on a 2-CD set, Live at the Jazz Standard, in 2007.
In late 2007, Moonshine, a further recording by Keystone was released. This was based upon recordings made of a live concert performance by the band at that year's Bray Jazz Festival in Ireland. The Keystone band then led a 5-night run at Jazz Standard in New York in April 2008. Greenleaf Music recorded and released all ten sets through their website as a download-only series, Keystone: Live at Jazz Standard (Complete Book).
In 2009, Douglas released two albums: Spirit Moves by his Brass Ecstasy band which featured Vincent Chancey, Luis Bonilla, Marcus Rojas and Nasheet Waits; and his first album of big band compositions, A Single Sky, a collaboration with Jim McNeely and the Frankfurt Radio Bigband.