Riverside – The New National Anthem

REVIEW: Riverside - The New National Anthem

Riverside – The New National Anthem (Greenleaf)

Trumpeter Dave Douglas’ multi-faceted career has been defined by solid musicality and daring, as well as by an abiding respect for his influences and heroes. These traits are prominently displayed on the wholly satisfying new album by Riverside, the quartet co-led by Douglas and saxophonist/clarinetist Chet Doxas.

The New National Anthem honors the inspiration of Carla Bley, the octogenarian composer, bandleader and keyboardist with a voice all her own. Featuring Bley’s creative ally and spouse, Steve Swallow, on electric bass, and drummer Jim Doxas, Riverside is a “chordless” unit — apart from Swallow’s occasional, extra-single-note moments and the intertwining horn harmonies. But Bley’s elastic sense of harmonic and attitudinal character, not to mention her luminous and angular way with chords, filter into this project’s musical palette.

Douglas’ compositions reveal a discernible Bley influence. It’s apparent in the twisty road map of “Old Country,” which features the first of several commanding, inventive solos by reedman Doxas, and through the spidery, boppish urgings of “King Conlon.” It can also be detected in the jazz-cum-folkloric impressionism of “Il Sentiero” and in the percolating, shuffling finale, “Americano.” Introspection and balladic dimensions enter the mix via Swallow’s lovely gospel-toned waltz “Never Mind” and Chet Doxas’ loose, lanky “View From a Bird.” The latter opens with Swallow’s tip-toeing bass and eases into a time-tweaked feel redolent of Paul Motian’s work.

Bley’s compositions are represented by the brief, enigmatic title track; a similarly short run through her Ornette Coleman-esque “King Korn”; and the woozy showpiece “Enormous Tots,” a psychedelic circus-y outing with vaudeville in the margins and jazz sensibilities pumping through its veins. Leave it to Bley — and to these Bley acolytes — to find sweet spots where serious aspirations, fun, and musical adventurism meet and prosper.

Josef Woodard

For more information, go to https://www.greenleafmusic.com/

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