The Checkout: Dave Douglas and Chet Doxas on Their Band, Riverside, and the Music of Carla Bley

Jun 30, 2017

Carla Bley, the wily and iconoclastic American composer, has a natural aversion to hearing other people interpret her music. But she didn't seem to have that problem with Riverside, a band jointly led by trumpeter Dave Douglas and multi-reedist Chet Doxas. In fact, she'll be joining Riverside, on piano, for a pair of upcoming Canadian concerts — in Quebec City on July 5 and at the Montreal Jazz Festival on July 6.

Her receptivity to Riverside's album The New National Anthem, which celebrates her work, may have something to do with the cajoling of her life partner, Steve Swallow, who plays electric bass in the band. But it could also be a reflection of the sincerity and sense of play brought to the table by Douglas and Doxas, who joined me in conversation for this episode of The Checkout.


Doxas first got to know Douglas as an instructor, at the Banff International Workshop in Jazz & Creative Music. (His brother, Jim, the drummer in Riverside, was also there.) Eventually Douglas and the Doxas brothers bonded over their mutual admiration for Jimmy Giuffre, a maverick postwar clarinetist, saxophonist and composer, responsible for some of the early iterations of free jazz. The first, self-titled Riverside album was a tribute to Giuffre, though hardly restricted to its historical frame of reference.

As it happens, the Jimmy Giuffre 3, which made some influential albums in the early 1960s, featured Paul Bley on piano and Swallow on bass. Paul Bley was Carla's first husband. So there is a personal element behind Riverside's progression from one album to the next. But Douglas and Doxas, who made themselves comfortable in our studio, mainly talked about Bley's genius as a composer, and the sheer joy of playing her music.

Riverside performs a pair of album-release shows at The Stone at the New School on June 30 and July 1. The band also appears with Bley as a featured guest in Quebec City on July 5 and at the Montreal International Jazz Festival on July 6. For more information, visit greenleafmusic.com.

Produced by Simon Rentner with assistance from Molly Fichter.