As the title suggests, trumpeter Dave Douglas’ new album is a tribute to his illustrious predecessor Dizzy Gillespie. This isn’t the first time the New York musician has engaged in such an undertaking. In the past, he’s saluted works as diverse as those of Booker Little, Mary Lou Williams, Wayne Shorter, Carla Bley, and Jimmy Giuffre. On each occasion, Douglas has carefully avoided reproducing the artist’s manner, preferring instead to honour their spirit, their vision. Dizzy Atmosphere is no exception.
The project first saw the light of day on stage. Douglas was then surrounded by an impressive line-up of instrumentalists including Ambrose Akinmusire, Bill Frisell and Linda Oh, among others. For the studio adventure, only the always excellent drummer Joey Baron is back behind Dave and his permanently affixed hat. The sextet is completed by Matt Stevens (guitar), Fabian Almazan (piano), Carmen Rothwell (double bass) and Dave Adewumi (trumpet). The latter’s presence is a nod to Gillespie, who used to invite a younger trumpet player at his side.
The program includes seven original pieces by Douglas, and two reinterpretations of numbers composed by Gillespie: “Manteca”, which carries a whiff of the Cuban spices Diz was so fond of, and “Pickin’ the Cabbage”, whose melody breathes the spirit of the legendary trumpet player. Generous as always, Douglas isn’t stingy with space, and each of his talented teammates has the opportunity to make their mark. Although they know how to shine with elegance in muscular exchanges, it’s particularly in the more peaceful moments, when the music rises above the limits of our atmosphere, and those of the bebop advocated by Dizzy, that the magic works best.