Dave Douglas Brass Ecstasy: Tiny Desk Concert



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Dave Douglas Brass Ecstacy performing a Tiny Desk Concert.
Dave Douglas Brass Ecstacy performing a Tiny Desk Concert.

The trombonists will be the first to tell you: It's not technically a "spit valve." It's just collected condensation. Where that "condensation" comes from, and why it periodically needs to be evacuated unceremoniously on stage floors, I'm not sure of. Whatever the case, Bob Boilen wasn't terribly pleased to see it on the ground under his desk.

But Bob's a forgiving man. I mean, the whole NPR Music office was all so, well, ecstatic after seeing Brass Ecstasy, trumpeter Dave Douglas' latest project, that we were more than willing to overlook the donations they'd left behind. Well, except for the recorded artifact of this Tiny Desk Concert.

We may see a good deal of talented artists around these parts, but we just don't see trombones, French horns and tubas every day -- nor do we see them playing Rufus Wainwright covers in rich, soulful polyphony. ("Brass-band tradition; 21st century ambition," I wrote at the time.) We certainly don't often get creative composing minds and virtuoso trumpet players on par with Dave Douglas visiting us, either. In fact, this was our very first jazz Tiny Desk show.

Knowing the instumentation, we were prepared for a big, full sound from a big group. (We had to bust out the wide-angle lens.) But we didn't know just how vibrant and exciting and just plain fun the band would be, even with abbreviated versions of tunes from its new record, Spirit Moves (plus the title track, which oddly does not appear on the album). Just imagine if we could have given Nasheet Waits more than a snare drum and some ratty old cymbals to lord over. Oof.

Afterward, I heard a colleague who works elsewhere in the building rave, "I don't know anything about jazz, but that was amazing!" See, the mere mention of jazz may scare off many, but when you see experts performing as ebulliently as these folks did, it's hard to remain unmoved. As for the spit stain, it proved temporary -- and weeks later, we still get to relive our satisfaction.

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