Dave Douglas | Soul on Soul – [RCA Victor – 2000]
I really do reserve that title for only one album every year. Now maybe my views will change by December 31, but I doubt it. First things first: even at his most accessible, Dave Douglas is not very accessible on first or second listen. But the more I listened to this album, the more I realized that these compositions are brilliant; these musicians are playing at the top of their game; and that they are interacting telepathically with one another. By the fifth listen or so, my ears were finally catching up to the wonderful music that these guys were hearing as they made the album. It was then that I realized why this album really is a heartfelt tribute to Mary Lou Williams. Sure, before that I knew that Douglas had thrown in some superficial tributes: for example, a few tunes were written by Mary Lou, and several tracks (most notably, Soul on Soul) incorporate stride piano lines and bebop licks and other styles that Williams played during her long career.
But after repeated listening, I realized that the real tribute comes in the nature of the music itself: it is highly experimental and deeply spiritual, which is precisely how I would describe Mary Lou Williams at her best. It is jazz and yet not jazz. It is soulful, but not in the Motown or even Judeo-Christian sense of the term. Douglas’s life experiences are obviously not the same as Mary Lou Williams’, but he brings to his music the same passion and self-assured identity that Mary Lou Williams brought to her music.
It is hard to explain if you have not experienced it; just an overwhelming sense of peace and contentment that stems from the musician’s confidence in his craft and where he is in his life. That quality enables the listener to enter the music, to get inside of it in a way that (in my experience) only Mary Lou Williams could duplicate. The music is all his own, which paradoxically is his real tribute to Mary Lou Williams.
..:: Source: Amazon.com ::..