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The word devotion may well imply spiritual matters. But that doesn’t mean straight-up reverential or humorless material, as Dave Douglas handily demonstrates with “Curly,” the opening track from the musically restless trumpeter and composer’s inspired collaboration with pianist Uri Caine and drummer Andrew Cyrille. The piece, on which Douglas doesn’t appear, is all hyperkinetic zig-zagging, leapfrogging, tumbling and occasional moments of respite followed by rapid returns to the raging. Yes, it’s a perfect way to honor the anarchic spirit of Jerome Horwitz, a.k.a. “Curly Howard” of the long-gone Three Stooges.
“Prefontaine,” a nod to the late Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine, is here, too. But more traditional objects of adoration by musicians are the subjects of tributes elsewhere on a recording that’s something of a sequel to the 2014 Douglas/Caine project Present Joys, which drew from Sacred Harp tunes. The stately, swinging “Francis of Anthony,” with muted trumpet out front, and “D’Andrea,” with its droning passages, cat-and-mouse rhythms and free section, both honor Italian pianist and composer Franco D’Andrea. Pianist and composer Carla Bley, with whom Douglas has worked, is saluted on the humming, steadily shifting “Miljøsang,” with the trumpeter ascending and descending over Caine’s churchy block chords, and again on the darker “False Allegiances.”
The alternately sprightly and dramatic “Rose and Thorn” honors pianist Mary Lou Williams, and “We Pray,” meant as a paean to Dizzy Gillespie, is fueled by brash, in-your-face trumpet tonalities over gently flowing rhythms. “Devotion,” written in 1818 by Alexander Johnson, makes for one of the set’s most buoyant and interactive performances, an apt capper to a set of invigorating, constantly surprising music by an unconventional trio.— Philip Booth
Featured photo by John Abbott