Dave Douglas’s Charms of the Night Sky

Trumpeter Dave Douglas has described Charms of the Night Sky, his quartet with bassist Greg Cohen, violinist Mark Feldman, and accordionist Guy Klucevsek, as a group that “plays new music that challenges genre boundaries.” That’s as unhelpful as it is bland–the same thing could be said of several other bands Douglas plays in, including the Tiny Bell Trio, his double quartet Sanctuary, and John Zorn’s Masada. But in fact the Charms’ recent second album, A Thousand Evenings (RCA Victor), blends composition and improvisation and busts musical boundaries more thoroughly than any recording he’s ever made–including this group’s rather rigid eponymous 1998 debut. Douglas’s fondness for the Hungarian folk-dance music known as csardas has been well documented in the past, but here its jaunty melodies are mingled with freewheeling klezmer, dramatic tango, raucous Gypsy music, hopped-up mariachi, soulful postbop, and film music, among other things. The result isn’t pastiche, though: Douglas connects disparate stuff only when it makes sense–the stomping original “On Our Way Home” links the careening intensity of Taraf de Haidouks with the dark intensity of Astor Piazzolla–and takes a more purist path when it doesn’t, as on the elegy “Words for Loss.” Without sacrificing any of the beauty of “The Branches,” a mournful two-part piece composed for klez pioneer Dave Tarras, Douglas and Feldman dip into a deep bag of tricks, the former shading the tune with sibilant blasts, Silly Putty smears, and brassy snickering, the latter adding chalkboard scrapes and low-end thwacks; elsewhere the group de-Bonds “Goldfinger,” swings hard on Nat Adderley’s “The Little Boy With the Sad Eyes,” and pays homage to Jaki Byard with the three-part “In So Many Words.” Thursday, January 25, 7:30 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.