Unlike the diverse bands Dave Douglas has alternately led, from the Tiny Bell Trio and Charms of the Night Sky chamber group to more traditional jazz units and the ambitious Witness, the band that Douglas created for Freak In was augmented by a compositional tool new to his arsenal, the computer-based recording studio. The recording was initially sparked by a touring band Douglas put together, which included two electric keyboardists. Working with that band, he began to hear new musical possibilities. “When I started having a lot of electric instruments onstage, a compositional light bulb flicked on,” Douglas says. “I was getting ideas that were completely different from anything I had previously done. I like it when that happens. It’s also a big challenge.” Beginning with a core band of four musicians and a collection of motifs, rhythms and textures, Douglas created the album out of the improvised ideas that arose from them. He then added the contributions of additional musicians, dressing the tunes in wildly imaginative arrangements that could only be realized with the assistance of the computer. It was a unique and fruitful way for this prolific composer to be able to work. The result is one of the most inventive recordings to be born out of Dave Douglas’ insatiable appetite for musical innovation and evolution.
In order to realize the elaborate sonic settings that he envisioned for Freak In, Douglas enlisted the assistance of keyboardist and co-producer Jamie Saft. “When you get to this level of computer recording and editing there are myriad decisions with every push of a button,” Douglas says. “It was a gift to be able to work with Jamie, who’s incredibly skilled in this medium, and also a great musician.” Ultimately, the goal of Freak In was the same as his previous recordings: to create a world in which he and his fellow musicians could interact and improvise in a spontaneous, natural way.
“There’s a tendency for electronic music to be cold and emotionally distant,” Douglas says. “I wanted to make sure that the warmth and passion came through. In that sense, I think this is a very American record. It’s me, but Gil Evans is in there, as is Wayne Shorter, Miles, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, Paul Motian, all the music that influenced me.” The vibe and feeling evoked by the arrangements also gave rise to the album’s title: “I’m not a particularly extroverted person,” Douglas says. “I tend to be focused and not flashy. And I try not to freak out — this music is about having the wildness going on inside, and dealing with that.”
During the course of a career that has spanned more than a decade, trumpeter and composer Douglas has built a reputation as one of the leading figures in modern jazz by refusing to acknowledge artistic limitations and boundaries of any kind. Douglas has consistently challenged himself and his listeners with new visions of what jazz is and what it can be. If there were an axiom for the path that his individualistic quest has followed, it might be found in a saying shared with Douglas by noted political activist Daniel Berrigan (also one the tracks on Freak In): “Traveler, there is no road. A road is made by walking.”
Freak In features today’s most adventurous musicians—longtime collaborators such as saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed, electronic musician Ikue Mori and drummer Joey Baron. Additional musicians include guitarists Marc Ribot and Romero Lubambo, recent Thelonious Monk saxophone competition winner Seamus Blake, co-producer Jamie Saft on keyboards, loops and programming, Michael Sarin on drums, Karsh Kale on tabla and drums, Brad Jones on Ampeg baby bass & acoustic bass & Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes.
Douglas currently leads ten unique ensembles, is a member of John Zorn’s Masada, and frequently collaborates with The Trisha Brown Dance Company. He has performed and/or recorded with a wide range of artists including Sean Lennon, pop band Cibo Matto, Anthony Braxton, Don Byron, Tim Berne, Horace Silver, Jack McDuff, Vincent Herring and many others. In addition to his work as a trumpeter/bandleader leading a wave of innovative, groundbreaking and socially/politically aware artists, Douglas is a modern composer who defies category, and a sought after educator, giving masterclasses and workshops at universities and schools worldwide.