Few artists are so prolific without compromising quality as trumpeter Dave Douglas, his Greenleaf label a tap for pouring out exceptional records. This one was immediately preceded by four double-albums of his quintet in incendiary form live at the Jazz Standard. The Uplift project could hardly be more different, the music intended as an impetus to political action in a time when he sees democracy as under threat (the album carrying the subtitle of Twelve Pieces for Positive Action).
Douglas assembled five players he saw as sharing his concerns: Joe Lovano (reeds), Mary Halvorson and Julian Lage (guitars), Bill Laswell (bass) and Ian Chang (drums). The album could also have been subtitled Twelve Templates for Thrilling Improvising: the options are wide open and brilliantly exploited. While Lovano has been a long-term sparring partner and slightly earthier foil to Douglas’s quicksilver musical mind, a particular fascination comes from the two guitarists’ interaction against the juddering, delightfully unconventional rhythm section of Laswell and Chang. The guitarists have all options on the table, from wide-open vistas to downy support to labyrinthine logjams of distortion.