By Ken Waxman
Another variation on this theme is interpreting another musician’s compositions while seamlessly adding your own themes in a similar style. That’s what American trumpeter Dave Douglas and Montreal reedist Chet Doxas do on Riverside Greenleaf Music GLM 103. A salute to the music of influential clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre, the quartet filled out by electric bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Jim Doxas, Chet’s brother, performs tracks from this CD at The Rex on April 19. Although New Englander Douglas and Quebecer Doxas come from dissimilar backgrounds than Texas-born Giuffre, their originals reflect the same sort of Southwestern spaciousness in which the clarinetist’s trios specialized. Their sophisticated transformations are substantiated by slotting Douglas and Doxas tunes near Giuffre’s. Maintaining a loping swing throughout, the quartet also redefines a Giuffre standard like “The Train and the River” by carving out parts for drums and trumpet, unlike the original. Making the melody speedier and hard-hitting doesn’t destroy its fragile beauty though. Cantering along via the drummer’s clip-clops and Swallow’s guitar-like plucks, Douglas’ “Front Yard” attains the same easy swing in which Giuffre specialized, harmonizing his muted trumpet and Doxas’ chalumeau clarinet. Doxas’ extended “Sing on the Mountain/Northern Miner” reflects his command of the moderato idiom as well, as contrapuntal trumpet tones and leisurely tenor sax slurs intertwine. Nonetheless, the quartet’s originality is confirmed with Douglas’ “Backyard”, a vamping blues line. While Douglas’ brassy tongue slurps and the drummer’s rapping backbeat create a tune much weightier than anything by Giuffre, its contrapuntal call-and-response organization maintains the mood.
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