Versatility is a necessity for a young jazzer trying to make it in New York, all the more so if he takes his music outside the mainstream. Not only can trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas navigate many stylistic waters, but he relishes the opportunity. Perhaps best known as the Don Cherry to John Zorn’s Ornette Coleman in the Yiddish-tinged quartet Masada, Douglas leads several terrific groups of his own, including the eastern-European-flavored Tiny Bell Trio and a more boppish sextet that paid tribute to Booker Little on last year’s In Our Lifetime (New World). For his Chicago debut as a leader Douglas brings his String Group, an inventive quintet featuring violinist Mark Feldman, cellist Erik Friedlander, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Michael Sarin. While there’s no lack of cross-pollination between jazz and classical going on–on the group’s two albums it’s played sharp arrangements of Webern, Stravinsky, Ellington, and Monk–it would be a mistake to lump the String Group in with the “third stream.” Douglas’s daring arrangements emphasize surprise: there are passages when the string trio plays in unison, but more often than not it delivers ingeniously complex contrapuntal passages with the members constantly shifting roles. On the recent Five (Soul Note), a piece like “Actualities” will switch with remarkable assurance from a jaunty swing to a plucky pizzicato to somber swaths of pure color. All five group members are superb, distinctive improvisers, and Douglas’s masterful nexus of composed and improvised music draws upon their strengths. Expect to be stunned. Monday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Dave Douglas photo.