Dave Douglas has arguably become the most original trumpeter/composer of his generation. Douglas' stylistic range is broad, yet unaffected; his music is not a pastiche, but rather, a personal aesthetic that reflects a wide variety of interests. He explicitly cites such diverse influences as Igor Stravinsky, Stevie Wonder, and John Coltrane. As a composer, Douglas adapts and synthesizes unusual forms and creates his own out of disparate elements. As a trumpeter, Douglas possesses a comprehensive jazz technique; certainly, one hears the ghost of Lester Bowie in Douglas' expressive manipulations of timbre and pitch, but more pronounced is the integration of distinctive compositional and improvisational conceptions that ultimately defines his work.
Douglas grew up in the New York City area. He started playing piano at the age of five, then trombone at seven before discovering the trumpet at nine. He learned jazz harmony in high school and began playing improvised music as an exchange student in Barcelona, Spain. From 1981-1983, he studied in Boston, first at Berklee School of Music, then the New England Conservatory. He moved to New York City in 1984, where he attended New York University and studied with Carmine Caruso. In 1987, he toured Europe with Horace Silver. The early '90s saw Douglas begin to record in earnest; he led or co-led dates for the Hat Art, Soul Note, New World, and Arabesque labels. His various bands include the Tiny Bell Trio, a self-described "jazz-Balkan-improv" group with drummer Jim Black and guitarist Brad Schoeppach; his String Group, which includes violinist Mark Feldman, cellist Erik Friedlander, and bassist Mark Dresser; and his Quartet and Sextet, which includes drummer Joey Baron. Douglas began recording for RCA in 2000 with a tribute to jazz pianist Mary Williams entitled Soul on Soul. That same year A Thousand Evenings featuring Guy Klucevsek was released, followed by El Trilogy and Witness in 2001. It was with Witness that Douglas began to broaden his already eclectic scope, incorporating electronics savvy improvisers like Jamie Saft and Ikue Mori. His next album, The Infinite, featured a more familiar sound but surprising covers of songs by Rufus Wainwright and Bjork. Also busy as a sideman, he can be heard on recordings with Patricia Barber, Myra Melford, John Zorn, and Anthony Braxton, among others. Douglas' Freak In was released in 2003.