One of the most interesting celebrations of music that exists here in Seacoast New Hampshire is the PARMA Music Festival, which premiered in 2013. The festival, which generally took place in August and showcased performances throughout different venues in Portsmouth and Kittery, is known for pairing together unique, awe-inspiring performances ranging in genre and scope. In 2016, the shape of the festival has shifted slightly from a days-long entity to more of a case-by-case basis and has set its course more on putting one-off performances in place where they make sense.
“We’ve had a number of opportunities arise since last year’s Festival which made it apparent that we can – and should! – present the Festival concept in a more broad way than the multi-day condensed format of our first few years,” said Bob Lord, CEO of PARMA Recordings and festival producer. “I think it is very likely that we will again mount our PARMA Music Festival in the way that we have in the past, but right now PARMA proper is so active in so many countries, with so many incredible musicians and ensembles, that it seems logical to begin to tie some of these activities together a little bit more closely. We’ll make an announcement soon regarding the Festival’s development into an international initiative.”
The first performance of this new model will feature world-renowned “indie jazz” trumpeter Dave Douglas, who will collaborate with Chris Klaxton’s OURBIGBAND at 3S Artspace on Friday, Oct. 7. Klaxton – a trumpeter himself and one of the real treasures in the landscape of our current music scene – was part of the impetus in reengaging the PARMA Fest and setting this performance on course.
“We’ve volleyed a few emails in the years that followed, but I put this OURBIGBAND idea past him in the early spring and he responded with a green light,” voiced Klaxton. “Not only does the collaboration with Dave align with our mission statement as a band, I’m sure it will only provide the excitement and momentum to do more things like this. I can also not overstate the impact that Dave has had on my generation of trumpet players and composers. He’s an authentic link to the past and the elders of the music, but is frightfully current.”
Though cited as a New York City resident, Douglas actually went to high school in nearby Exeter, so there are granite roots running within him. Douglas is excited to get back to visit some of his formative training grounds where he credits Tommy Gallant as the man who “taught him about jazz.”
The first performance of this new model will feature world-renowned “indie jazz” trumpeter Dave Douglas, who will collaborate with Chris Klaxton’s OURBIGBAND at 3S Artspace on Friday, Oct. 7.
EDGE: In today’s world, jazz sometimes comes with the connotation that it’s a bit of a “high-brow” brand of music. Which is interesting considering that the genre – especially big band – was once the premier form of entertainment. It literally was the pop music of a generation. I’d like to get your commentary on that, and sort of how you play with your own music a bit perhaps as a means of attempting to bridge genre-esque gaps.
DOUGLAS: Genre is just the surface of the music. Music is essentially a social activity — a good band is a microcosm of how our society can operate. I think good music is always important regardless of genre. I don’t think about what kind of music it is when I’m working. I think about how it creates a human interaction and activity. I think about how music brings people together.
EDGE: What’s the importance of variety in a musician’s diet? You’ve worked with myriad artists throughout your career. Is variety necessary and something you’ve actively sought, or is it just a merely a means of you being in the right place at the right time?
DOUGLAS: (Laughs.) Thanks! I find my ear and my heart are attracted to all kinds of musicians. And when I hear a musician who moves me it’s my natural inclination to want to create a collaboration, to somehow figure out how to make new music with that person. That attraction to musicians has led me in a lot of directions and given me beautiful experiences all around the world. I feel very fortunate for that. I’m also aware that when I write music I push myself to always investigate new territory in one way or another. That’s what keeps me moving.
EDGE: Okay, let’s trace the roots for a minute. Was there a moment or experience in particular that led you to pick up the trumpet, and, further, chase it down as a means of making a living?
DOUGLAS: Before picking the trumpet at age 9, I played piano and trombone. Thinking back, the reason I switched ... I turned around in band practice and realized my friend on trumpet had all the melody parts. I wanted to be a melody player. It’s unfair to the trombonists, but that’s the way it was. Maybe they have hipper parts by now...
I don’t remember ever deciding to be a professional musician. I started playing gigs when I was about 14. I don’t remember ever feeling like I had a choice. There was a period where I worked some non-musical “day jobs.” But Wendy’s wasn’t for me. I decided I would only take work on the horn, even though a lot of the work I had to do was quite constraining musically.
EDGE: If you weren’t “doing” music for a living, what would you be doing?
DOUGLAS: Marathon training, gardening and walking my dog. That would be especially great if I could do it for a living! But seriously? No idea.
EDGE: I’m a big fan of Greenleaf Music. What do you enjoy about running your own record label? What are the challenges? I mean, you obviously have all kinds of free time..
DOUGLAS: (Laughs.) Right! Greenleaf has become an umbrella for all sorts of creative musical activity. There are the recordings, CDs, LPs, downloads, streams. There’s publishing of sheet music. There are the Subscription Series projects. There’s the podcast, A Noise From The Deep. There’s news and information about all the artists and my own work. There is the educational aspect of my work, which has become quite important and dear to me. Obviously, the challenge is all the administrative time the project takes up. But I think all these aspects have always been a part of the work, not separate. So, to have them all in one house is incredibly fulfilling.
EDGE: Okay, speaking of collaboration, you’re heading to New Hampshire for a gig at 3S which will see you joining forces with Chris Klaxton’s OURBIGBAND. How do you know Klaxton? What excites you about participating in this outfit?
DOUGLAS: I met Chris in Miami and worked with him on lots of different music. He is a great player and composer ... an inspiring guy. I am so grateful that he invited me for this collaboration. And I look forward to interacting with this whole vibrant community of musicians.
EDGE: What excites you about the show? What can folks expect? I understand you’re composing music specifically for this show ...
DOUGLAS: The big band works I’ve written are challenging and fun to play. They’re flexible enough to invite in the language of each new player. I know we are going to have a blast. I am right now working on a few new ideas I hope to bring up and debut there as well.
Douglas will also be hosting a smattering of educational opportunities while he’s in the area, which are all free and open to the public. That schedule includes master classes at the University of New Hampshire in the band room of the Paul Creative Arts Center on Friday, Oct. 7 from 1 to 5 p.m.; a master class at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. in Corthell Hall; and a master class at PMAC on Sunday, Oct. 9 at noon. In addition to performing at 3S Artspace on Friday, OURBIGBAND and Douglas will also perform at 8 p.m. at SPACE Gallery in Portland on Saturday, Oct. 8.
“The reason Dave’s music has hit me so hard is that it authentically incorporates so many things,” said Klaxton. “He has a sincere interest in and is extremely knowledgeable about folk music, classical music, 20th Century composition, chamber music, the jazz tradition in its entirety, electronic music ... you name it. No matter who you are, you are guaranteed to get what you need from this show. The music is grooving and allows us all to improvise. It contains such beautiful melodies, and at times rests comfortably in the avant-garde. Dave does not take show time lightly. He brings the hurt with his horn and has a real presence in front of the band. We’re lucky to have him here.”
- CHRIS HISLOP, EDGE MAGAZINE / PORTSMOUTH HERALD