‘Secular Psalms’ – London Jazz News
Dave Douglas: Secular Psalms
(Greenleaf CD Gre-CD-1090. Album review by Tony Dudley-Evans)
This album consists of a suite to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the start of work on the Ghent Altarpiece designed and painted by Jan van Eyck and Hubert van Eyck. The altarpiece has also been in the public eye as several years of painstaking and comprehensive restoration were completed in 2020.
The commission of Secular psalms, which Douglas described as “an ode to Ghent and its masterpiece, to pure beauty and our sometimes difficult existence”, stems from conversations Dave Douglas had with Wim Wabbes, the venue’s artistic director. concert, an extremely creative programmer with a vast knowledge of music and current president of Europe Jazz Network. Douglas tells the story in more detail on the album’s Bandcamp page – link below.
The idea for the commission started in July 2018, but the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 meant that it was not possible to bring the musicians together in one studio, and as a result the music was born through recordings in the hometowns of the various actors made between May 2020 and August 2021. Singer Berlinde Deman was recorded in Ghent, cellist Tomeka Reid was recorded in Chicago, pianist and organist Marta Warlis was recorded in Amsterdam. Guitarist Frederique Leroux and drummer Lander Gyselinck are both from Ghent, so they were probably registered somewhere in Belgium. David Douglas, on trumpet and voice, was recorded in the United States. When a musician asked Douglas why he devoted so much time to this work, he answered with another question: “How much time do you think Van Eyck devoted to his work?”
The compositions create a very successful mixture of jazz and classical music which seems quite appropriate for the celebration of the polyptych created to be exhibited in the cathedral of Ghent. Douglas drew on music and literature from the time the altarpiece was painted, including the music of Guillaume DuFay, the writing of Christine de Pisan, and the Latin text of the mass.
There are ten tracks. Arrival features a beautiful instrumental opening for the ensemble led by the rich tone of Douglas on trumpet followed towards the end of the piece by Reid whose rich tone and elegant improvisations suit the music’s classical and jazz mix perfectly, and the spiritual context work.
Pity introduces the song of Berlinde Deman with words from Psalm 59, the Latin Mass, Marvin Gaye and Douglas himself. The vocals have a haunting, atmospheric sound that contrasts perfectly with Douglas’ brilliant sound on trumpet. We believe and Agnus Dei also have vocals with texts from the Latin Mass with a vocal sound that is difficult to describe; they are a kind of chant with a beat, but also have an air of mystery. On Agnus Dei Leroux’s guitar comes in after contributions from Warelis on piano and Reid on cello to add a more contemporary, up-tempo vibe to the piece.
instrumental angels is an interactive instrumental track that worked extremely well given that the musicians were recording in different studios; it has an appealing bouncy melody and group improvisation led by Douglas on trumpet. Hermits and pilgrims features Warelis on pump organ as well as another noteworthy contribution by Reid on cello. righteous judges brings a freer improvisational approach with a touch of electronics.
The set is completed by edge of night with words of Douglas; it initially links to the opening track Arrival with dark sounds on the pump organ before the voices and more intense sounds of the guitar enter.
This is a major and important work in which Douglas very successfully integrated various sounds and textures ranging from haunting vocals, rich and elegant sounds of trumpet, cello and pump organ to contemporary sounds dramatic additions to the guitar to create a very appropriate sound. tribute to an important work of art.
The live version of the project will premiere at Handelsbeurs Ghent on 4 November this year. It will be played in Bruges on November 5 and in Berlin on a date to be confirmed.
Dave Douglas plays the Cheltenham Jazz Festival duet with drummer Joey Baron on Saturday April 30
Secular Psalms is a production of Handelsbeurs in co-production with Jazz Brugge, November Music and Jazzfest Berlin with the support of the City of Ghent and Baloise Insurance.‘
LINK: Secular psalms on Bandcamp