Dave Douglas' Tiny Bell Trio Constellations (hatOLOGY)
Reviewed by Jeff Mccord, Fri., July 28, 2000
Dave Douglas' Tiny Bell Trio
Constellations (hatOLOGY)The trio has flourished in jazz, not just of economic necessity, but as musical muscle flexing. With less scrapping for position, the players often shine and interact with sublime grace. The Tiny Bell Trio may be only one of many modern trios active, yet in just six years and four albums on as many labels, they have proven themselves to be kings of the hill. Trumpeter Dave Douglas, at age 37, has already received the accolades of a player twice his years, and rightly so. He taps into the fury of Fats Navarro and the lyricism and spirit of Miles Davis -- no easy feat -- while exploring a vast and inquisitive stylistic vocabulary. As displayed in his first-rate Soul to Soul CD earlier this year, Douglas' creativity in a larger band setting roams wild. With the Tiny Bell, Douglas doesn't genre-hop as much, but the results are nonetheless surprising. Constellations is actually the trio's re-released second album, only available for a short time in 1995. It serves as a reminder of how good Douglas was so early on, yet the trumpeter wisely steps back a good amount of time to let the prodigious talents of guitarist Brad Shepik and drummer Jim Black share the spotlight. They have no problem doing so. Opening with a rapid-fire potboiler, Constellations propels along in a post-bop fashion brimming with excitement. There's not a dull moment among the nine selections, even the long ballad "Hope Rings True" is rigid with dramatic tension. The take on Herbie Nichols' "The Gig" is another standout, accelerating as Douglas soars in the upper register, slinking down low for an edgy fluid growl from Shepik, and then breaks tempo entirely as Black pops the clutch and drives home. It's all effortless, at least seemingly so, yet how three musicians make it all happen remains almost unfathomable.