By Jeffrey Allen Federowicz
For The Daily Item
MILLHEIM — Considered one of the most noted jazz musicians today, New York City trumpeter and jazz guru David Douglas has impressed audiences across the nation and through National Public Radio with his hard driving, soulful spin of jazz music that ranges from jovial to melancholy.
On Saturday night Douglas, along with a trio of talented musicians, will join together to form the harmonious David Douglas Quartet when they perform at the Elk Creek Café in Millheim, bringing big city jazz to rural Pennsylvania.
“I don’t play in Pennsylvania very often, and as I am engaged on a 50-state tour in celebration of my 50th birthday, this will be one of the shows on that trek,” Douglas said.
“I find that the audience is the best part of the show and touring. It takes some sensitivity to feel out the aura of a room and receive that feedback. People everywhere react differently and that can be quite surprising! It’s one more aspect of being an improvising musician,” he said.
Improvising is one of the reasons the talented trumpeter has been attracted to jazz and performing its distinct, freestyle style of music which has kept him in-tune with jazz for the past 20 years.
Douglas, the recipient of a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and an Aaron Copland award, paired with two Grammy nominations, is one of the rare musicians who not only plays the music, it is interwoven throughout many aspects of his daily life, which often finds him performing most nights at celebrated venues and performance halls.
“I am a jazz musician who grew up playing standards and began writing my own music in many different contexts. My music is, I believe, still jazz,” he said. “However, many of the interests I have pursued as a composer take the sound of the music in unexpected directions. I like to give the listener something familiar while moving into uncharted territory.”
Joining Douglas in the unchartered territory of Millheim, will be fellow music makers Jon Irabagon on saxophone, Tony Marino on bass and Phil Haynes on drums, creating a sophisticated sound that delves into a host of jazz styles.
To accommodate his varying style and passion for music, in 2005 Douglas created his own record label, Greenleaf Music, allowing him unrestricted artistic expression and input into each aspect of his music.
In between touring and composing original material, Douglas has also found the time to immerse himself in the educational aspect of jazz. He has been serving as artistic director of the Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music at The Banff Centre in Canada for 10 years and has a royal and ongoing stint as International Jazz Artist in Residence at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
“Honestly, the high points for me are creative high points. Every time I am able to create some music and share it with musicians and audiences, I am so grateful,” Douglas said. “Bliss is to find that point of transition into something that hasn’t been heard. I have been fortunate in being able to do that in many different contexts.”
Douglas noted musical influences and personal favorites include Joni Mitchell, Wayne Shorter, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Igor Stravinsky.
In what little spare time he finds, Douglas, who bills himself as a “Huge Stevie Wonder fanatic” enjoys trail running, distance events and the technology spin on music with his podcast, “A Noise From The Deep.”
“I think music is a universal practice and we all have to grapple with the same issues of expression and the sense we are all individuals, we owe it to ourselves to be ourselves,” he said. “We all have something unique to say and an opportunity to be here on the planet and say it.”