Doug Beavers Revels in Sunshine


Trombonist Doug Beavers combines elements of r&b, salsa and jazz on his new album, Sol.

(Photo: Adrian Montañez)

During the past 20 years, Doug Beavers has been, to use baseball parlance, a five-tool player. Whether navigating New York City’s modernist jazz scene or playing in Afro-Caribbean ensembles like Eddie Palmieri’s La Perfecta band and the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Beavers, 44, has paid the rent as a master practitioner of both the soloistic and ensemble functions of the trombone. He also has pursued the arts of composing, arranging, producing and teaching.

Beavers utilizes his full toolkit on his fourth leader album, Sol, released through his label, Circle 9. Through the course of 12 originals he merges elements culled from Nuyorican salsa dura, Cuban timba and horn-heavy soul, conjuring melodic trombone lines that complement vocalists Jeremy Bosch and Carlos Cascante (and r&b singer Ada Dyer), phrased in rhythmic counterpoint to a world-class drum coro comprising trapsman Robby Ameen and hand percussionists Luisito Quintero, George Delgado and Camilo Molina. Jazz vibraphonist Joe Locke sits in on two tracks, and keyboardist Yeissonn Villamar generates textures evocative of Roy Ayers, Chic and Earth, Wind & Fire.

The album gestated in April 2019, when Beavers—whose Grammy-nominated 2017 release, Art Of The Arrangement (ArtistShare), showcased a cohort of A-list Latin jazz arrangers—was taking “a writing getaway” at his parents’ house in Sitges, a coastal town in Spain. “I was sitting on the beach, thinking, ‘It’s time to show what Doug does,’” Beavers recalled during a videoconference chat in January. “I wanted to write some songs, and to introduce the r&b element. I came up in that music through my father, who’s African-American. After high school, before I moved to New York, I played in horn bands around the Bay Area, where I grew up.

“I took my score paper, walked on the paseo along the water to a café, got a little cold beer and wrote the first bass lick of the title track. My idea was to write a record. That was the beginning.” By October, Beavers had eight compositions; in December, he recorded them.

“It was a well-run session,” Ameen said. “Doug converges all the idioms beautifully. It’s not, ‘Let’s put a little funk section here; now we’ll do this.’ He knows what he wants, and he knows what the musicians he calls will add to it. He doesn’t tell you everything about the rhythms, but he knows the nuances.”

After the December session, Beavers wrote the final four tracks, intending to record them in March and release the album in the summer. The pandemic intervened. He tried to rebook in April, but his collaborators expressed discomfort. He booked a session for May, but again was rebuffed. “I wanted continuity with the same musicians,” he said. “So, I decided to chill and work on my business plan for the label.” He finally convened his crew in early June. “The engineer had a [thermometer],” Beavers said. “In the control room and studio we wore masks—three guys were in booths, and it was just me and three horn players. On July 18, we did the last vocal session.”

Then Beavers—who studied electrical engineering before he committed to a life in music—applied his analytical skills to post-production. “I love clarity in the mix,” he said. “That’s from listening to Creed Taylor’s CTI stuff; Dave Grusin; checking out smooth-jazz like Fourplay and Earl Klugh, where the tracks are pin-drop, gorgeous mixes; and Bruce Swedien with Michael Jackson. Making sure everything is heard. A lot of ‘crack’ on bongo and congas, but also making sure the EQ is proper without being too processed.

“I love trombone, and I’m pretty good at it,” he added. “But I also love making the whole music, writing the entire palette. That gets me excited. So does the mixing—controlling the whole story of the audio. I’m still a work in progress. I feel I have so far to go.” DB

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