Album Review: Dave Douglas & Uri Caine – Present Joys

Dave Douglas and Uri Caine’s “Present Joys” is a thoroughly enjoyable outing from these two master musicians. I was pleasantly surprised by the genre bending tunes, which accessed a jazz aesthetic through improvisation, but veered pleasantly off course from standard head arrangements. Dave Douglas’ trumpet in this stark duo setting is cool and plaintive, falling somewhere between an English hunting horn and Miles Davis. 

A synthesis of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Monk carries through many of the tunes, code switching from pastoral diatonic melodies to jubilant post-bop improvisation. The duo setting in conjunction with the agility of the performers makes these lithe transitions authentic and believable, which is no small feat. Changing the rhythmic feel and style mid-tune can often feel heavy and forced, but it doesn’t ever feel that way in the hands of Douglas and Caine. 
Another notable accomplishment is the brevity of the tracks. Even though they trade on choruses or multiple choruses it never feels like “why is there another trumpet solo here?”, their deeply thematic improvisation maintains a high level of continuity with each other and the composition.
Bethel might be my favorite ballad on the album. Bethel is the Hebrew word for “House of God.” I really appreciate the meditative and complex harmonies on this track and the way some of the dissonant chords resolve is very beautiful. The album’s penultimate track, Old Putt, similarly showcases Uri Caine’s wonderful harmonic sensibility.
These ten tracks are a must hear for any serious jazz fan. 
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