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Hear a Bold New Track by Dave Douglas

Dave Douglas performs with High Risk, featuring Shigeto, at the 2017 NYC Winter Jazzfest.
John Rogers
for NPR

Trumpeter-composer Dave Douglas found inspiration for his latest project, Metamorphosis, in the sky: specifically, from star formations and the mythologies that took hold around them.

“Halcyon Days,” which premieres here, is a potent, exploratory track from the session, featuring serious improvisers like Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet, Oliver Lake on saxophone and Andrew Cyrille on drums.

Those names might lead you to expect a certain strain of experimentalism here, rooted in the post-1960s jazz avant-garde. But Metamorphosis also involves Fred Frith on electric guitar and Matt Mitchell on modular synthesizer, along with Kris Davis on piano and YasushiNakamura on double bass. Throughout “Halcyon Days,” the sound of the ensemble morphs and mutates like an interstellar nebula: notice how the track opens with a brusque, nearly tactile statement on trumpet, and winds down in glittery, mechanized abstraction. 


The electro-acoustic palette and intrepid collectivism of the group recall Sanctuary, a double album that Douglas released in 1997, with partners like keyboardist Yuka Honda and bassist Mark Dresser. That evocation is intentional, presented as the continuation of an idea. 


But some other things have changed: Douglas is releasing Metamorphosis not as a conventional album, but in monthly installments, as the 2017 Subscriber Series on his label, Greenleaf Music. The first track released to subscribers, earlier this month, was “Andromeda.” Some forthcoming tracks will involve smaller subunits of the ensemble, like a quartet or quintet. 


And Douglas will present a slightly different version of Metamorphosis on March 3 and 4 at the Appel Room, as part of Jazz at Lincoln Center’s spring season. Cyrille, Smith and Lake are all a part of that performance, but the guitarist will be Marc Ribot, the pianist will be Myra Melford, and they’ll be joined by Dresser and percussionist Susie Ibarra. 


For more information about Metamorphosis, visit Greenleaf Music. For details about the concerts, see Jazz at Lincoln Center.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.