Dave Douglas at the Green Mill | Concert preview
Jazz trumpeter honors his mother with a set of hymns.
It’s hard to get a handle on Dave Douglas, an artistically restless trumpeter who’s made a career out of trying on different hats. Pop music and politics have fed the prolific improviser’s creativity in the past, but the 49-year-old’s latest album, Be Still, takes inspiration from a more personal subject: his late mother, who drew up a list of hymns for Douglas to perform at her memorial before she passed.
Sanding down the rough edges that defined his work with jazz iconoclasts like John Zorn, Douglas imbues “God Be with You” and other songs of praise with a quiet radiance, supplementing them with traditional folk tunes and a few originals. He also enlisted Crooked Still’s Aoife O’Donovan, a singer rooted in Americana, yet their union feels unforced—O’Donovan’s feathery delivery lands like a caress on the album’s namesake, “Be Still My Soul,” and she sounds right at home on the hillbilly standby “High on a Mountain.”
Though O’Donovan is the featured guest, she’s rivaled by Jon Irabagon, whose soul-dripping sax playing intertwines effortlessly with Douglas. Their unique chemistry would be a draw in and of itself, but for this two-night stand Douglas brings the entire cast behind Be Still. The spiritual nature of the set and the way in which it’s rendered, elegantly and understatedly, lends itself nicely to the holiday season. That said, Douglas and Irabagon’s taste for avant-garde fare suggests the tender stuff may eventually give way to something more tenacious.