Sound Prints Tips Hat to Shorter at Ottawa Jazz Fest
“I hope you can tell how much fun we’re having up there,” said trumpeter Dave Douglas during a CD-signing session between sets by Sound Prints, the new quintet he co-leads with saxophonist Joe Lovano.
The joy associated with birth was evident in the embrace he shared with Lovano early in the evening. It was also all over the beaming face of Sound Prints drummer Joey Baron as he interacted with bassist Linda Oh throughout two shows at the Ottawa International Jazz Festival, the band’s second gig.
Inspired by the time Douglas and Lovano spent together in the 2008–’09 versions of the SFJAZZ Collective, the 2009 Masada album Stolas and their mutual love of the music of Wayne Shorter, Sound Prints debuted late last year with James Genus on bass. Now, with Oh in place, the band pulsed with energy as it prepared to launch an extensive tour of Europe. The enthusiasm was palpable, with Douglas bouncing in place like a boxer and Lovano digging in to match the trumpeter’s zeal. As they frequently intertwined melodic lines, the duo floated over their fierce rhythm section; Douglas, on his composition “Out In The Cold,” seemed as if he were playing a different song than the rest of the band. Shorterisms abounded, particularly during Douglas’ “Sprints” with its multiple mood shifts and galloping trumpet.
Opening both sets and serving as the quintet’s calling card, Lovano’s “Sound Prints” was closer to Ornette Coleman than Shorter, with a woozy trumpet/soprano unison theme and an anthemic melody. Young pianist Lawrence Fields—the lanky St. Louis native who has turned heads with Jeff “Tain” Watts and Christian Scott—sounded tentative on the first take but took a more aggressive, angular approach in the second set.
Fields’ progress was interesting to observe. At first, his quiet, sparse approach seemed at odds with the firepower the rest of the band was unleashing, but as he stepped up, revealing Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner influences, his subtleties proved an effective balance to Baron’s hyperactivity. On “Middle March,” a Douglas composition dedicated to Paul Motian, Fields’ solemn passages added emotional depth, and his pretty, slightly hesitant work on Lovano’s “Full Moon” heightened the tune’s romanticism. Overall, his presence proved a canny piece of casting.
Oh was more of an obvious fit from the outset, with her ability to nail down slalom-course rhythms and adroitly make radical shifts in dynamics. She drove hard behind the bouncing lead line of Douglas’ “Power Ranger,” which concluded with her exceptional duet with Baron—a highlight of the set—and a blazing opener to Lovano’s hard-swinging “Full Sun.”
Lovano was particularly aggressive, biting off gruff phrases on tenor and wrenching his horn away from the microphone at the conclusion of his solos. Douglas loved it; mugging disbelief at Lovano’s playing and then lunging forward to reply. Their trading on both versions of Lovano’s “The Newark Flash” was explosive, egged on by Baron at his most ferocious. By the end of the night, several shattered drumsticks lay at Oh’s feet.
Lovano’s “High Noon” illustrated a softer side of the band, with Baron introducing the song with an extended display of hand drumming, establishing a skittering rhythm for a trumpet/soprano duet. “Ups And Downs” and “Libra,” two Douglas ballads, were effective vehicles for blending voices and creating the kind of soundscapes that cemented the Shorter connection.
As it sets out on a 30-show tour that brings it to the Newport Jazz Festival, the Village Vanguard and a handful of other U.S. dates, Sound Prints has a rich book of compositions, including a number by Shorter and some new tunes written in collaboration with him.