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Dave Douglas Tiny Bell Trio at Kerrytown


Prominent avant garde trumpeter Dave Douglas brought one of his many groups to the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor on March 5.  The Tiny Bell Trio, which first performed at the Bell Caffee in New Yorkís Soho about eight years ago, definitely works as a group with every member anticipating the musical paths the others are about to take. Douglas is clearly the dominant force in the group and his interplay with drummer Jim Black is the backbone of the group. Guitarist Brad Shepik is most effective as a foil for Douglas, at least to my ears. 

As is fairly common with the groups in the Jazz at the Edge series, the performers generally refrained from introducing the names of their tunes.  An exception was a piece by Robert Schumann, but as Douglas pointed out, the composer might have had reservations about the way his piece was treated, so maybe it was poetic justice that this was the only tune that was identified. In the past the Tiny Bell Trio played a lot of Eastern European influenced music, but this performance only rarely showcased this part of their repertoire.  One of the last pieces in the second set came close to a klezmer feel. More often I heard Spanish influences, but mostly the tunes were downtown New York, where Douglas of course is one of the major voices.

Douglas is a very impressive trumpeter.  He seemingly can do everything.  He whispers, growls, croons, and shouts on his trumpet in a way that few can.  At times I found myself thinking of Douglas as the Don Ellis of the nineties, since they both bring open horn chops and a flair for melody into an avant garde setting. Whether Douglas can achieve the (short-lived) popular success that Ellis had remains to be seen.  Drummer Jim Black is another great avant garde stylist and has to be seen as well as heard. What he does with very small means is simply astounding.  He has already visited Ann Arbor half a dozen times and is no doubt returning, so if you have not seen him yet do not despair