This six-track EP showcases both the versatility and musical depth of bassist Dezron Douglas, whose ensemble includes tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard, altoist Lummie Spann, trumpeter Josh Evans, and drummer Jeremy “Bean” Clemons, along with, at various points, keyboardists Willerm Delisfort and David Bryant.
Douglas, who studied under the late Jackie McLean at McLean’s Institute of African American Music at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut, is a gifted composer as well as a deft and imaginative player. This is his seventh album as a leader; all six selections are Douglas originals, and they span a wide stylistic range. The streetsy swagger of the funky “Negroidius Maximus” is sanctified by churchy organ work along with Spann’s jubilant testifying on alto; “Alexis,” a medium-tempo ballad, is charged with dark urgency, deepened by Douglas’s resonant bass work; “Bottoms Out,” a tightly-wound hard-bop workout, pulsates with a high-voltage intensity; the spirit-infused, lilting reggae of “Great Provider” finds Douglas and drummer Clemons reveling in their mastery of that deceptively simple one-drop beat.
A highlight of this set is the way Douglas and his compatriots incorporate passages of free group improvisation into their work, segueing into complex, spontaneously interwoven filigrees and then back again into a robust, swinging linearity. Because these explorations, unfettered as they are, maintain adherence to a composition’s basic harmonic structure, they sound both joyfully liberated and devoid of dissonance or harshness. Individual statements are well-crafted and concise—no one overstays his welcome or sounds as if he’s stuck in the spotlight waiting for the next idea to come around—combining hard-hitting focus with a loose-limbed, propulsive drive.