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Album Review

To hear many hard bop hard-liners tell it, all avant-garde jazz is nothing more than atonal screaming. The problem with such sweeping generalizations is that some avant-garde jazz is, in fact, quite musical. A perfect example is Dave Douglas' Convergence, an experimental, adventurous outing that incorporates everything from classical and chamber music to Jewish, Middle Eastern, and East European music. Joined by violinist Mark Feldman, cellist Erik Friedlander, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Michael Sarin, the New York-based trumpeter doesn't shy away from the eccentric and the unorthodox, but he also provides his share of discernible, substantial melodies. The inside/outside approach works impressively well on pieces ranging from Douglas' "Goodbye Tony" (a passionate ode to the late drummer Tony Williams), his Miles Davis-influenced "Tzotzil Maya," and his probing "Meeting at Infinity" to the traditional Burmese song "Chit Kyoo Thwe Tog Nyin Hmar Lar" (to which he brings a strong Jewish element). You can hear a variety of influences in Douglas' playing — everyone from Lester Bowie and Don Cherry to Miles Davis and Booker Little — but Convergence leaves no doubt that he is very much an original himself.

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