Matt Douglas is the saxophone sideman who pushes the Chris Boerner Trio into the Chris Boerner Quartet, an ambitious acid jazz outfit built around the dynamo guitar style of its namesake. But Douglas is the frontman for his own quartet, too: The Proclivities are a stark stylistic departure focused on Douglas' easy vocals and empirical observations, turning the Boerner group's instrumental heavyweights (including bassist Nic Slaton) and drummer Matt McCaughan into new contexts as reserved sidemen.
Like the players in his band, Douglas has been forcing himself into different circumstances since childhood: As an 8-year-old in Virginia, he took to saxophone heavy enough to head north, receiving a degree in jazz performance from New York University while studying and sitting in with several Manhattan heavyweights. Instead of chasing modal variations, though, he won a Fulbright Scholarship and headed to Budapest to study Hungarian and Transylvanian folk music. Stateside, those studies coalesced into a series of classical compositions. Now, though, Douglas has handed in his academic accolades for hard-driving jazz solos and man-with-band pop songs. Those two ventures demonstrate one thing: No matter what genre Douglas is journeying through or what instrument he uses, he does it well.
His debut of singer-songwriter fare with The Proclivities, Predispositions, is a collection of aubades for the hopeful of heart, well-framed and careful, pinning playful narratives about characters he cares for against a surprisingly adventurous musical patchwork: On "Your Secret,"soul-organ swells, a big prancing bass and hand claps come split by a text-painting guitar absent of rhyme or reason. Rarely do debuts from young songwriters carry such a genuine understanding of so many aesthetics--gospel choirs join, Wilson-inspired harmonies rise, big rock catharses clamor.
Predispositions shows Douglas may be good enough to warrant rank in an emergent group of young, pop-centric, starry-eyed singer-songwriters like Patrick Park, David Mead and Josh Ritter. That is, if studies in gamelan or wash-tub bass don't overwhelm him first.
The Proclivities release Predispositions Friday, June 30 at Raleigh Music Hall. The Old Ceremony opens at 10 p.m. Tickets are $5-$10.