Dave Douglas (trumpeter)

Dave Douglas (born March 24, 1963) is a jazz trumpeter, composer, and educator. His career includes more than fifty recordings as a leader and more than 500 published compositions. His ensembles include the Dave Douglas Quintet; Sound Prints, a quintet co-led with saxophonist Joe Lovano; Uplift, a sextet with bassist Bill Laswell; Present Joys with pianist Uri Caine and Andrew Cyrille; High Risk, an electronic ensemble with Shigeto, Jonathan Aaron, and Ian Chang; and Engage, a sextet with Jeff Parker, Tomeka Reid, Anna Webber, Nick Dunston, and Kate Gentile.

Dave Douglas
Born (1963-03-24) March 24, 1963
Montclair, New Jersey, U.S.
GenresJazz, free jazz, electronic
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, bandleader
InstrumentsTrumpet, cornet
Years active1984–present
LabelsGreenleaf, RCA, Winter & Winter, Arabesque, Soul Note
Associated actsMasada, Brass Ecstasy, Keystone, Sound Prints, SFJAZZ Collective, Riverside

He has won a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Aaron Copland award, and received Grammy Award nominations. As a composer, Douglas has received commissions from the Trisha Brown Dance Company, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Essen Philharmonie, The Library of Congress, Stanford University and Monash Art Ensemble, which premiered his chamber orchestra piece Fabliaux in March 2014.

From 2002 to 2012, he served as artistic director of the Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music at the Banff Centre in Canada. He is a co-founder of the Festival of New Trumpet Music in New York with trumpeter Roy Campbell Jr.. Since 2003, Douglas has served as director of the nonprofit festival. He is on the faculty at the Mannes School of Music and is a guest coach for the Juilliard Jazz Composer's Ensemble. In 2016, he accepted a four-year appointment as the artistic director of the Bergamo Jazz Festival.

In 2005 Douglas founded Greenleaf Music, a record labels for his albums, sheet music, podcasts, as well as the music of other modern jazz musicians. Greenleaf has produced over 70 albums.

1970s and 1980s

Born in Montclair, New Jersey, Douglas grew up in the New York City area and attended Phillips Exeter Academy, a private high school in New Hampshire. He was introduced to jazz by his father, Damon Greenleaf Douglas Jr., and as a young teen was shown jazz theory and harmony by the pianist Tommy Gallant. Douglas began performing jazz during his junior year in high school while on an abroad program in Barcelona, Spain. After graduating from high school in 1981, he studied at the Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory, both located in Boston, Massachusetts.[1]

In 1984, Douglas moved to New York to study at New York University, to study directly with Carmine Caruso, and he finished a degree in music. Early gigs included the experimental rock band Dr. Nerve, Jack McDuff, Vincent Herring as well as street bands around New York City. He played with a variety of ensembles and came to the attention of the jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader, Horace Silver, with whom he toured the US and Europe in 1987.[1]

Douglas's daughter, Mia Douglas, was born in 1984.

In the late 1980s, Douglas began playing with bands led by Don Byron, Tim Berne, Marty Ehrlich, Walter Thompson, and others in New York. He also played in the composer collectives Mosaic Sextet and New and Used.


In March 1993, Douglas got the opportunity to record his first album as a leader, Parallel Worlds (Black Saint/Soul Note), which featured his String Group with Mark Feldman (violin), Erik Friedlander (cello), Mark Dresser (bass), Michael Sarin (drums). The album is a collection of original pieces, some using serial composition techniques, and arrangements of Webern, Ellington, Kurt Weill and Stravinsky.

This first recording was followed in quick succession by the debuts of two groups, the Tiny Bell Trio (Songlines) with Brad Shepik and Jim Black and The Dave Douglas Sextet, with Chris Speed, Josh Roseman, Uri Caine, James Genus and Joey Baron, which recorded an homage to Booker Little called In Our Lifetime (New World).

This began a period during which Douglas recorded widely as a side musician and as a member of many new jazz groups. Douglas also began touring extensively worldwide both as a leader and as a side musician.

In 1993, Douglas also began performing with John Zorn in his Masada quartet, with Greg Cohen and Joey Baron. The group, which still occasionally performs, deals with Jewish and diaspora culture and heritage through Zorn's original compositions. As such, it is an amalgam of jazz, new music, klezmer, and purely improvised styles. The band became one of Zorn's most long-standing and popular ensembles, and brought Douglas wider attention.[2]

Since the mid-1990s, Douglas has led a variety of groups simultaneously. In 1996, Douglas recorded Sanctuary with Cuong Vu, Anthony Coleman, Yuka Honda, Dougie Bowne, and other musicians of the New York downtown scene of the time. The group involved sampling and DJ improvisations in addition to jazz.

In 1997, Douglas started a quartet featuring trumpet, violin, accordion, and bass (with Guy Lucevsek, Mark Feldman, and Greg Cohen) which recorded Charms of the Night Sky, incorporating sounds of Eastern European and Argentinian folk musics as well as jazz influences on the music, which is generally mellow and relaxed. The album included a number of tracks with Douglas and accordionist Guy Klucevsek performing as a duo. A second album by the Charms of the Night Sky group, A Thousand Evenings was released in 2000.

Also in 1997, Douglas founded a jazz quartet with Chris Potter, James Genus, and Ben Perowsky. This group recorded two albums in this period, Magic Triangle and Leap of Faith. Both were originally released by Arabesque Recordings, and have subsequently been reissued on Douglas's own imprint, Greenleaf Music. Greenleaf has also released sheet music containing all of the original compositions from these albums. This group further explored Douglas's interest in writing harmony for cordless groups and lyrical, accessible new acoustic jazz sounds.

Towards the end of the 1990s, Douglas formed a Quintet with Uri Caine on fender rhodes, Chris Potter, James Genus and drummer Clarence Penn. The formation of this group coincided with Douglas signing a seven-record deal with major label RCA Victor.

Douglas also began to appear at the mainstream jazz clubs around New York such as Iridium, Village Vanguard and Jazz Standard. His international touring continued with multiway residencies of his original works at festivals in Belgium, Italy, Poland, Germany, France and Spain.

It was at the end of the 1990s that Douglas first visited the Banff Centre for the Arts as a visiting artist, at the invitation of pianist Kenny Werner. A few year later he would begin a ten-year stint as the Director of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music.


In 2000, Douglas released Soul on Soul, a tribute to composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams, featuring original arrangements of her music for the sextet and new pieces inspired by her work. Douglas also released albums featuring Charms of the Night Sky and the Dave Douglas Quartet in the same year.

In the early years of the decade, Douglas worked often with the Trisha Brown Dance Company. El Trilogy, an extended musical work accompanying modern dance, was performed during 2000–2001.

Witness, a nine-part suite, was released in 2001. It features a band made up of trumpet, sax, two electric pianos, electronic percussion, bass, and drums. Douglas' music had always been informed by his political concerns, but this album was his most ambitious attempt to give them musical form, often by celebrating his political and cultural heroes through dedications and track titles. The album includes a 20-minute track entitled "Mahfouz", in which gravel-voiced singer Tom Waits reads an excerpt from the works of Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz, as well as pieces dedicated to Edward Said and Taslima Nasrin.

More recently, Douglas founded the Dave Douglas New Quintet and Nomad.[1] The Quintet is a trumpet and tenor sax-led group but with Fender Rhodes electric piano. Their first album, The Infinite (2001), featured Douglas originals and pieces by or inspired by musicians Rufus Wainwright, Björk and Thom Yorke. This was followed up by 2004's Strange Liberation by the same group with guest Bill Frisell on guitar. Formed in 2003, Nomad is made up of trumpet, clarinet, cello, tuba, and drums. With this band, Douglas performed his suite Mountain Passages, commissioned for the Italian Sound of the Dolomites Festival, and released as the first album on Douglas' record label Greenleaf Music in 2005. The suite features a variety of different influences including Italian Ladino music, New Orleans jazz, and other musics, and is to be played from 9 to 12,000 feet above sea level.

Douglas also started a new band called Keystone, which performs works influenced by the silent film actor and director Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle. The project includes pieces to be performed with Arbuckle's films. This ensemble is made up of trumpet, tenor sax, Wurlitzer (electric piano), turntables, electric bass, and drums. A CD of this music – accompanied by a DVD with two Arbuckle shorts – was released in 2005.

2006 saw Douglas release Meaning and Mystery, where he plays again with his quintet, now with Donny McCaslin in place of Chris Potter on saxophones. In December 2006, Greenleaf Music recorded all the quintet's performances over a six-night engagement at New York's Jazz Standard jazz club, called them Live at the Jazz Standard, and made the two-hour sets the band played each night available for download from the company's website within 24 hours. The 44 compositions, almost all of them by Douglas alongside covers of Wainwright, Mary J. Blige and Björk, featured 14 tunes not previously recorded by the band. Those 14 new compositions were released on a 2-CD set, Live at the Jazz Standard, in 2007.

In late 2007, Moonshine, a further recording by Keystone, was released. This was based upon recordings made of a concert performance by the band at that year's Bray Jazz Festival in Ireland. The Keystone band then led a 5-night run at Jazz Standard in April 2008. Greenleaf Music recorded and released all ten sets through their website as a download-only series, Keystone: Live at Jazz Standard (Complete Book).

In 2009, Douglas released two albums: Spirit Moves by his Brass Ecstasy band which featured Vincent Chancey, Luis Bonilla, Marcus Rojas and Nasheet Waits; and his first album of big band compositions, A Single Sky, a collaboration with Jim McNeely and the Frankfurt Radio Bigband.


In tandem with the 100th anniversary of the first Frankenstein film, Douglas collaborated with experimental film-maker Bill Morrison and released the 3-CD set Spark of Being. Written for his Keystone ensemble, the set includes three related, yet subtly different, albums to accompany the Morrison film. The first edition, entitled Soundtrack, comprises long-form pieces edited to accompany the film in real time. The second edition, Expand, contains extended performances of the original themes from the soundtrack, arranged in a traditional jazz album format. Burst, the third edition, consists of additional variations and unused outtakes recorded at the initial session.[3]

In 2011, Douglas released three albums within the span of five months through Greenleaf Music. The albums were released only in digital format and contained approximately 30 to 50 minutes of music per album, referencing album lengths of the LP era. Released under the unifying label of the Greenleaf Portable Series, or GPS, the albums showcased ensembles that Douglas may only "rarely get to play with" in some cases. The first album, Rare Metals featured Douglas' Brass Ecstasy ensemble. The second album, Orange Afternoons included Ravi Coltrane on tenor sax, Vijay Iyer on piano, Linda Oh on bass, Marcus Gilmore on drums. The third, Bad Mango, paired Douglas with the innovative quartet So Percussion.[4]

Douglas joined with tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano to form the co-led quintet Soundprints in 2012. The group originated during the bandleaders' intersecting tenures in the SFJAZZ Collective in 2008 and is loosely based upon the music of tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter. The group's Village Vanguard debut in November 2012 included drummer Joey Baron, bassist Linda Oh and pianist Lawrence Fields.[5]

Douglas released Be Still in 2012. The album featured Douglas' newly formed quintet of Jon Irabagon on saxophone, Matt Mitchell on piano, Linda Oh on bass, and Rudy Royston on drums with the addition of vocalist Aoife O'Donovan. Dedicated to the memory of Douglas' mother, Emily, who died in 2011, Be Still features nine tracks, of which six are hymns and folks songs that she requested Douglas perform at her funeral. The same ensemble, minus O'Donovan, recorded and released Time Travel the following year.[6][7]

Inspired by 2005's Mountain Passages, which the I Suoni delle Dolomiti festival in Northern Italy commissioned to be performed at a high altitude, Douglas initiated his 2013 tenure as the Monterey Jazz Festival's "Showcase Artist" with a benefit concert and hike at Glen Deven Ranch in Big Sur, California. The audience and performers alike hiked to a promontory overlooking the Pacific Ocean and then listened to a concert of Douglas' music.[8]

In celebration of his 50th birthday, Douglas launched his "50 States Project" and set out to perform in each of the 50 U.S. states throughout the course of 2013. The tour aimed to include performances in "unlikely and outdoors locations for people who might not otherwise have the same kind of access to live, improvised music as those in larger cities."[9]

In 2014, Douglas formed a collaboration with tenor saxophonist Chet Doxas, electric bassist Steve Swallow, and drummer Jim Doxas. Collectively known as Riverside, the group formed out of a shared respect for Texas-born multireedist Jimmy Giuffre. The group's eponymously-titled recording features originals by Douglas and Doxas, as well as Guiffre's "The Train and the River".[10]



  1. Kelsey, Chris. "Dave Douglas: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved January 30, 2011.
  2. Layne, Joslyn. "Masada: Live in Taipei: Review". Allmusic. Retrieved January 30, 2011.
  3. Collins, Troy. "Dave Douglas & Keystone: Spark Of Being". All About Jazz. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  4. JARENWATTANANON, PATRICK. "Dave Douglas: Three Records, Five Months". NPR. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  5. Chinen, Nate. "Sound Prints at the Village Vanguard". New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  6. Jurek, Thom. "Be Still". All Music. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  7. Collar, Matt. "Time Travel". All Music. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  8. Blumfeld, Larry. "Dave Douglas has horn, will travel". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  9. Tamarkin, Jeff. "Dave Douglas 50 States Project Tour Under Way". JazzTimes. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  10. Chinen, Nate. "New Recordings by Riverside, Jessica Lea Mayfield and August Alsina". New York Times. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
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