Saxophonist Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas assembled their Sound Prints quintet in 2013 to mark saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter’s 80th birthday. They released a live self-titled recording from that year’s Monterey Jazz Festival on Blue Note — the set premiered two new Shorter compositions — and their first studio album, 2018’s Scandal, included two Shorter classics.
The Shorter influence, though, was felt more in the band’s spirit and approach to modern jazz than the music’s narrative detail. Shorter’s classic themes were delivered as mere sketches and though they followed Shorter by mixing free-flowing improvisation with harmonic rigour, the band’s unique sound and left-field edge revealed other influences in play.
This album, Sound Print’s third, was recorded just before lockdown after a week at New York’s Village Vanguard club. It finds the airy rasp of Lovano’s sax gripping tightly to Douglas’s slightly fragile trumpet, and drummer Joey Baron’s clean ping-and-thump beats cementing their trademark sound. Joining these three long-term collaborators, in-demand bassist Linda May Han Oh and rising star pianist Lawrence Fields add light and shade with confidence. The pair were relatively unknown when they joined the band in 2013, but their muscular solos and highly developed intuitive skills confirm them as equal partners in this generation-spanning collaboration.
The set starts with textural changes and tempo-shifts capturing a sense of galactic travel, though the title, “Space Exploration”, could equally refer to the spacious textures the composition investigates. The wide-interval leaps and slurred notes of “Shooting Stars” come next, lasting barely a minute, and then on “Manitou” rhapsodic piano and firm counterpoint bass follow the slow burn of “Life on Earth”.
Elsewhere, “Sky Miles” by Lovano and “Pythagoras” by Douglas ebb and flow like a granular version of Miles Davis’s 1960s quintet, folky track “The Flight” has an Ornette Coleman flavour and “The Transcendentalists” floats harmoniously over ripples of piano and closely worked bass. “Midnight March” closes the album with a strident theme and military beats.
‘Other Worlds’ is released by Greenleaf