Dave Douglas LITTLE GIANT STILL LIFE with The Westerlies and Anwar Marshall

Twelve brand new Dave Douglas compositions and arrangements for five brass players and drums.
A broad range of vibrations and strategies

Inspired By Politically Engaged Visual Artist Stuart Davis,
Music Written During 2016 Presidential Campaign Season


Little Giant Still Life is an exciting new meeting between the acclaimed emerging talents of The Westerlies–known for their work with Fleet Foxes, their repertoire of original compositions, and interpretations of the music of Wayne Horvitz –and the young Philadelphia-based drummer Anwar Marshall (Fresh Cut Orchestra, Kurt Rosenwinkel), all under the compositional vision of Dave Douglas. The music contained herein is grooving, swinging, lyrical, and something distinct in Douglas’ over 50 recordings as a leader of original music, and as director of Greenleaf Music.

Much of the music on Little Giant Still Life was inspired by the American painter Stuart Davis, and the music explodes with the same bright colors and excitement that characterize much of Davis’s works. Elaborating on the influence, Douglas quips: “I like the explosive nature of Davis’ work — bright colors, big shapes, images bouncing off each other. Also, the fact that jazz inspired so much of his own work was meaningful for me. Swing Landscape is a good example of Davis refracting what he is hearing in the music for visual use. It’s only natural for musicians to see the work and refract right back!”

While Davis’ mark is heavily felt throughout the album, Douglas’ fledgling relationship with his collaborators are of equal weight. Douglas met The Westerlies – trumpeters Riley Mulherkar and Zubin Hensler, trombonists Willem de Koch and Andy Clausen – at a Chamber Music America event a few years ago. The five of them first played together when The Westerlies opened for Douglas’ quintet at Seattle’s Earshot Jazz Festival. The band sat in on the tune “Barbara Allen” and realized that a more serious collaboration was bound to happen. Mulherkar reflects: “Dave started writing tune after tune for us and him to play together, and when we finally got together again everything came together pretty quickly.”

With the addition of Marshall, the ensemble was complete. Douglas notes, “The Westerlies are dream players for a composer. They really get inside the music and internalize it. They are also great ensemble improvisers — that is, their tendency is to solo all together, rather than one by one. I love that about them. Anwar has a deep groove and real feel for the big landscape of the music; he understands peaks and valleys, and plays with superb empathy. It has made him the perfect player for this project.”

Mulherkar and Hensler are first-rate trumpet players and are especially astounding when blending their sounds with Douglas’. All members of The Westerlies grew up enthralled by Douglas’ sonic universe. Mulherkar, speaking for the group, says: “Working with Dave Douglas is a dream come true. Dave has been an influence on each of us individually and as an ensemble – I remember listening to his records growing up, transcribing his solos, and seeing him whenever he’d come through Seattle; he was (and is) a trumpet hero of mine.”


As is the case with all his projects, Douglas thought deeply about the players involved in this group and their potential interactions. He also brought his extensive experience of writing for brass to bear on the project (see previous albums SanctuarySpirit MovesA Single Sky). The majority of this music was based on simple lead sheets which were then extrapolated upon as an ensemble.

Elaborating on the album’s context, Douglas says “I wrote most of this music during the 2016 presidential campaign. A lot of my thoughts and themes focused around ideas of patriotism and civic duty and in a sense that was an additional kinship with Stuart Davis, who was an engaged citizen-artist.”

While Douglas has written extensively for horns in the past (notably in his Brass Ecstasy group which resembles this group in instrumentation) The aims of this record are distinct and its sound particularly suited to our current climate and Douglas’ remarkable young collaborators.

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