Dave Douglas, GPS, Vol. 3: Bad Mango

Seth Colter Walls

By Seth Colter Walls

on 12.21.11 in Reviews

In 2011, trumpeter Dave Douglas released three short albums (by modern standards) under his “Green Leaf Portable” rubric. This “portable” designation — as well as the “just another in a series” style of numbering each effort — connotes a casual vibe; loosed from the pressure to make a big statement with some hour-long plus album, Douglas can just try ideas out, play with new people, blow for around 40 minutes and let it be a thing. And yet Bad Mango, the third disc in this series, doesn’t feel like a casual, workaday product. After recruiting the classical-scene hotshots in So Percussion, Douglas wrote some new pieces, reworked some old ones, and came up with a new subgenre: percussion quartet plus trumpet. Opener “One More News” comes in plenty hot, as one might expect, though the group also proves it has the strength to conceive of subtler songforms. (Over the course of 35 minutes, what at first might feel like a limited sonic palette never gets old.) The quartet grooves with a complexity honed during their time woodshedding Steve Reich’s Drumming, while Douglas’s brash-but-bluesy playing grounds the project in jazz tradition. That the players’ collective insights are presented with such a lack of pretension only makes the album feel like more of a find.