Jazz album of the month review – Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas Sound Prints: Scandal

A beacon of group unity and flexibility with a smouldering title track

The Sound Prints quintet, co-led by saxophonist Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas, can surely book its place on the 2018 albums of the year lists thanks to the smouldering, Miles-muted trumpet sound and hip yet stately horn counterpoint of its title track alone. For some, a downside of Scandal might be that it’s unapologetically a jazz album – entirely instrumental, jazz-referential in the accuracy of its fascination with the music of Wayne Shorter; particularly Shorter’s 1960s work and involvement in Miles Davis’ second quintet.

But the five year-old group – Lovano and Douglas, plus pianist Lawrence Fields, double bassist Linda May Han Oh, and drummer Joey Baron – tell better jazz stories from this kind of perspective than most, and this session catches them at their most collectively fluent. Scandal’s release is backed by a European tour next month.

The leaders hope that this session might contribute to “celebrating unity in divided times” – a common contemporary ambition, but the reflexiveness and empathy of this band celebrates unity in almost every track. Douglas’ and Lovano’s contrapuntal dances over Oh’s agile bassline and Fields’ discreetly dissonant chordwork are models of exact but elastic group-thematic playing on the languidly pulsing Dream State. Enthusiasm for reinvented bebop is evident in the brightly bouncing Full Sun and The Corner Tavern’s Latin swing. Two Shorter covers – Fee Fi Fo Fum and Juju – explore a more ambiguous version of Shorter’s cannily swinging original in Douglas’s arrangement of the former, and a mix of scampering piano and percussion figures and tersely urgent trumpet and sax solos in Lovano’s version of the latter. But Scandal’s title track is its tour de force – a reverie of murmuring paired-note descents and wistful trumpet-sax conversation, drifting gracefully into slow jazz grooving in the Miles/Shorter manner, coaxed by Oh’s attentive basslines and Fields’ softly prodding piano. This is jazz with a deep sense of history, but imaginatively and spontaneously reworked.

This month’s other picks

Former Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson and delicate UK alto saxophonist Martin Speake renew a long occasional partnership with the transatlantic quartet session Intention, a smart, lyrical, and exhilarating celebration of Speake originals, a Charlie Parker sprint, and graceful balladeering. And Bruno Heinen, the inventive young UK-based jazz/classical pianist, releases Mr Vertigo, his eclectic, eccentric, unobtrusively erudite solo-piano salutation to Wayne Shorter, John Taylor, Stockhausen, Debussy and plenty more.

Contributor

John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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