Little Giant Still Life is an exciting new meeting between the acclaimed emerging talents of The Westerlies – known recently for their work with Fleet Foxes, their repertoire of original compositions, and interpretations of the music of Wayne Horvitz, Duke Ellington and others – and the young Philadelphia-based drummer Anwar Marshall (Fresh Cut Orchestra, Kurt Rosenwinkel), all under the compositional vision of trumpeter-composer Dave Douglas.
The music contained herein is grooving, swinging, lyrical, and something distinct in Douglas’ 50+ recordings as a leader of original music, and as director of the Greenleaf Music record label, which he founded in 2005. Much of the music on Little Giant Still Life was inspired by the American painter Stuart Davis, and the music explodes with the same bright colors and excitement that characterize much of Davis’ work.
Elaborating on the influence, Douglas notes, “I like the explosive nature of Davis’ work — bright colors, big shapes, images bouncing off each other. Also, the fact that jazz inspired so much of his work was meaningful for me. The song ‘Swing Landscape’ is a good example of Davis refracting what he is hearing in the music for visual use. It’s only natural for musicians to see the work and refract right back!”
While Davis’ mark is felt strongly throughout the album, Douglas’ fledgling relationship with his collaborators are of equal importance. Douglas met The Westerlies – trumpeters Riley Mulherkar and Zubin Hensler and trombonists Willem de Koch and Andy Clausen – at a Chamber Music America event. The five first played together when The Westerlies opened for Douglas’ quintet at Seattle’s Earshot Jazz Festival. The band sat in on the tune “Barbara Allen” (an old spiritual) and realized that a more serious collaboration was bound to happen. Mulherkar reflects: “Dave started writing tune after tune for us and him to play together, and when we finally got together again everything came together pretty quickly.”
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