Greenleaf Music Announces Riverside,
A New Collaborative Project Co-Led By
Trumpeter DAVE DOUGLAS & Saxophonist CHET DOXAS
Honoring the Musical Legacy of Jimmy Giuffre
Featuring Bassist STEVE SWALLOW and Drummer JIM DOXAS
Out April 15, 2014
Anyone who has followed the career of trumpeter Dave Douglas, knows that he has been strongly influenced by and paid his own tributes to a wide range of music – from Lester Bowie to Mary Lou Williams to Joni Mitchell to Booker Little to Don Cherry and Wayne Shorter. However, few to date know of his admiration for the late clarinetist and erstwhile saxophonist Jimmy Giuffre. Douglas, like Giuffre, constantly reinvents himself, never allowing himself to be defined by one project or association.
Similarly, Douglas’ main collaborator in Riverside, Canadian saxophonist Chet Doxas has led a career of great variety – from touring with Canadian pop and folk singers Sam Roberts and Rufus Wainwright to leading bands with Canada’s leading jazz players such as Oliver Jones and Guido Basso as well as stints with American jazz stars Maria Schneider, Joe Lovano, Jason Moran, and Bill Stewart.
Originally, Giuffre became well-known in the music world for his role in the Woody Herman Thundering Herd (most notably for writing the swing era hit, “Four Brothers”). Over time, Giuffre revealed himself to be one of the most forward-thinking musicians in jazz. He went on to became one of Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars, formed a Western swing trio with valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer and guitarist Jim Hall (appearing in the film, Jazz on a Summer's Day at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival). Later he would form his groundbreaking Jimmy Giuffre 3 with pianist Paul Bley and bassist Steve Swallow focusing on the quieter, more subtle side of “free jazz.” This group influenced many small groups to come after it – including Douglas’ own small bands of the 1990s and 2000s, but never more evidently as on Riverside.
As it turned out, Chet Doxas shared a love and mutual admiration for Giuffre’s work. Unbeknownst to Doxas, Douglas had previously worked on charts for a Giuffre-inspired project that was never recorded. After meeting at the Banff Centre when Douglas was Director, Doxas invited him to play, and they found their shared interest to be a perfect match. “For me,” Doxas says, “it was his trio with Bley and Swallow. I quickly started studying his earlier work with Shorty Rogers, moving my way forward until his reunion record with Bley and Swallow, Fly Away Little Bird.”
The quartet, co-led by Douglas, on trumpet, and Doxas, on clarinet and tenor saxophone, has a rhythm section comprised of Steve Swallow (a former member of the Jimmy Giuffre 3) on electric bass and Jim Doxas (Chet’s brother and frequent collaborator) on drums. Riverside blends a love for improvised music, bluegrass, sacred hymns and Appalachian music to create an aesthetic rooted in both Americana and jazz.
Douglas adds, “For me, I have always been fascinated by the trio with Giuffre, Jim Hall and Bob Brookmeyer. It’s kind of unparalleled the way they dealt with harmony and rhythm in such a stark setting and in such an open way. Showed how a band can swing so hard without always being driven by the drums or playing ferociously energetic all the time. That trio was so smooth!”
Douglas says, “Chet’s such a strong player on tenor sax and clarinet, when he asked me if I was interested in Giuffre I was floored. I had a whole book of work dedicated to the early Giuffre trios. Playing it with Steve, Chet, and Jim really brought it alive in a wonderful way. I had a class with Giuffre at New England Conservatory and there are so many questions I wish I’d asked him! Now in playing with Swallow we get to look for our own answers.”
“The name Riverside represents the image of the music we both brought to the table,” says Doxas. Douglas adds, “The name references nature – like standing in the mud down by the river – that relaxed and organic quality in folk music and improvisation.”
The quartet aims to show their appreciation and respect for the late reedsman and composer, but rather than being just a tribute band and simply performing Giuffre’s repertoire, Douglas and Doxas have composed new music that highlights their inspiration. The piano-less configuration allows for harmonic freedom and gives the group the ability to emphasize the original compositions as well.
“When Jimmy, Paul Bley and I made music together in the 60’s,” Swallow recounts, “it didn't occur to us that it would reverberate over decades. We were, when it came down to it, having a good time, making stuff up as we went along. As Gil Evans once said: ‘a party with a purpose.’ It’s tremendously satisfying to find that music, and the impulses behind it, still alive, and in such strong hands. Dave, Chet and Jim are doing exactly what we were doing back then: looking for ways to move music into new places. Nothing much has changed, and yet it’s all new again.”
“We did a pre-recording tour 10 months before the recording,” says Doxas. “It was pretty easy to put together and by the time we got into the studio in Toronto, the music was basically memorized. There are several first takes on the recording and I can’t remember doing more than two takes of anything. It is a very easy group of people to travel and work with – tons of experience combined with a deep commitment to putting on the best show possible.”
With regards to the music and how it fits into his overall approach as an artist, Doxas says, “The blues is something that I consider whenever I play or write. I came at this project thinking of specific types of blues, such as Texas swing, mountain blues, and bluegrass. I thought a lot about form in the songs that I wrote and how, even if the harmony wasn’t as dense as some of my other compositions, it could propel a song and the band. I suppose form is something that is always on my mind.”
“Jimmy had this beautiful way of letting the listener in, very vulnerable. This has been a quality that I've always tried to keep my eye on while writing or playing. I like to feel like I know someone after they play. I had been talking to Dave about collaborating on something over the years and when Giuffre’s name popped up in conversation…we combined our repertoire and we ended up with a pile of music!”
“I’d always wanted to write some tunes that had that openness,” said Douglas. “A deceptive simplicity referencing folk music, but also a rhythmic swing that speaks through the moving parts. I found it takes a lot of balance within a band to pull that off. Riverside found the necessary relationships to present that sensibility.”