“Bow River Falls” by Dave Douglas, Louis Sclavis, Peggy Lee, Dylan van der Schyff (Premonition Records 0765)


Proverb: “The best people meet in the best places.” That seems to be the case with Douglas (USA), Sclavis (France), Lee and van der Schyff (Canada). Each musician tours inter-continentally and all four have musical passports that render them immune to being policed by the border check-points of stylistic differences. While they have only played once before as an ensemble (1998 in Vancouver), the musicality of Bow River Falls makes it seem as if they have been a working band for a long time. This symbiotism is particularly evident in the players’ harmonic relations. On the other hand, the voice of each player is as starkly differentiated as the mountains, lakes, and rivers near the Banff Centre inthe Canadian Rockies where the CD was recorded.

The compositions are coherent and aesthetically wonderful landscapes of rhythm and improvisation that resound with beauty, melancholy, and emotional longing. The combination of cello (Lee), clarinet/bass-clarinet (Sclavis) and trumpet (Douglas) frequently lends the music a dark tone that enhances introspection. There are also compositions that zip along at a brisk, celebratory pace. Van der Schyff holds it all together, either by force of straight-ahead swing drumming with odd meters, or with chimes and computer-generated soundscapes.

Close listening will divine African, Balkan, Jazz, and New Music influences that come straight out of each band member’s international experiences. Yet for all that, Bow River Falls will be certainly be placed in the “Jazz” section of the retail stores. But its proper classification is in the ellingtonesque “Beyond-Category.”

This review originally appeared in Coda , the Journal of Jazz and Improvised Music, March/April 2005

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