By John Murph | Published June 2018
For Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas’ second release as Sound Prints, Wayne Shorter continues to be the pair’s inspirational linchpin. As on their 2015 Blue Note Records debut, the two embrace Shorter’s current quartet’s heralded spatial awareness, invigorating interplay and cross-conversational dialogue on the new Scandal. Lovano and Douglas also project their respective strong artistic voices.
Both in sound and improvisational approaches, the two offer fascinating contrasting and complementary sensibilities. Lovano’s cobalt-blue tone on tenor saxophone paired with Douglas’ crimson-tinged trumpet flares create startling timbres when they play in unison or intertwine improvisational lines. It’s the latter on which they engage the most; their passages tend to gambol around each other like sparring partners.
As one takes the lead, the other often jabs their counterpart—pushing the conversational friction beyond rote hard-bop. Douglas’ improvisations unleash like shards of broken glass that fall into place, like a melodically designed mosaic, whereas Lovano’s spurt like blossoming petals of a writhing vine. Drummer Joey Baron’s splintering rhythms and Linda May Han Oh’s colossal bass lines boost the leaders’ performances with plenty of rubato velocity and elastic cohesion, while pianist Lawrence Fields’ calligraphy-like accompaniments provide the right amount of harmonic and melodic jolts.
Sound Prints’ debut showcased two previously unrecorded Shorter compositions. Scandal, however, features imaginative investigations of “Fee Fi Fo Fum” and “Juju”—two gems from his ’60s hard-bop period. On the former, the composition’s prowling melody and eerie harmonies are intact, while the suspense is amplified by braiding loose saxophone, trumpet and piano excursions, as Oh and Baron concoct a buoyant rhythmic bed. They give the latter an inventive makeover, initially eschewing the loping rhythm while elongating the haunting melody across Oh and Baron’s respective contrapuntal statements and Fields’ jaunty flourishes.
Traces of John Coltrane’s compositions also appear. The descending opening melody of “Scandal” alludes to “Naima” before the piece unfolds in unexpected directions, as Douglas and Lovano issue oblique melodies that give way to Oh’s walking bass line. Underneath the serrated and stubborn melody of “High Noon” lie faint insinuations to the leapfrogging melody of “Giant Steps.”
Those Shorter and Coltrane references don’t take away from the brilliance of the originals. Douglas’ gorgeous ballad “Ups And Downs,” with its pithy lyricism, and Lovano’s frisky “The Corner Tavern,” which features wonderful cackling trumpet work from Douglas, are two originals with great potential of becoming future jazz standards.
Scandal: Dream State; Full Sun; Fee Fi Fo Fum; Ups And Downs; The Corner Tavern; Scandal; Juju; Mission Creep; Full Moon; High Noon; Libra. (66:34)
Personnel: Joe Lovano, tenor saxophone, G mezzo soprano saxophone; Dave Douglas, trumpet; Lawrence Fields, piano; Linda May Han Oh, bass; Joey Baron, drums.