Dave Douglas & Brass Ecstasy
Jun 15, 2009 Web Exclusive
After recording When the Spirit Returns in 1999, Lester Bowie, rest his immortal soul, laid down his trumpet and tipped his hat to the everafter. That album turned out to be his final blast, funneling contemporary R&B and hip-hop through his lifelong second voice. He delivered that title as a promise: I am timeless, I am here; we will meet again.
Dave Douglas remembers. Still feels him in the wind. He summons the legend in "Bowie," dumping a half-zillion winks into one composition. Vincent Chancey spits shivers down his French horn until it chortles like a Theremin. Then everybody pounces on a rubber-legged "There'll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," each member performing as if pickled on different sauce. Bowie's shadow also lingers in "Great Awakening's" Heaven-bound ragtime strut.
Brass Ecstasy (homage to Lester's Brass Fantasy) are in fine spirits here, plodding drunk through "This Love Affair," led by Douglas stinking of tavern-cured perfume and elixirs. "The View from Blue Mountain" isn't as breathtaking as you'd expect. There are no evocations of ice-capped vistas, damask horizons, or love odes to terra firma. Instead the scenery's described from an acrophobic perspective, wavering on Luis Bonilla's wobbly trombone and trembling on Chancey-fueled fear. Chuffed brass props up "Orujo's" funky lope; drummer Nasheet Waits pours the walkway while Marcus Rojas erupts with as much gusto as a tuba allows. (Without a string among them, Rojas is Ecstasy's de facto bass, threading Spirit with sharp quakes. He also blows a slow hum for Douglas to dance atop in "Rava" and huffs through a solo on "Fats.")
As Bowie did on his Spirit, Douglas, too, thumbs through other playbooks, resurrecting—shock of shockers—Otis Redding's 1965 R&B hit, "Mr. Pitiful." He testifies with the legend's aplomb as his boys pump that Stax rhythm hard. They also blubber through the Hank Williams beer-tearer "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," with Douglas pacing halls as his brass brothers weep. It doesn't quite qualify as ecstasy, per se, but Spirit is sound and rousing and worthy of your love. (http://www.davedouglas.com)
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