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 Friday, 27 November 2015
Dan Cavanagh, Dave Hagedorn: Teacher and Former Student Release “Horizon” PDF Print
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   
Monday, 27 December 2010

Dan Cavanagh

Somehow I have managed to miss the previous duo performances of pianist Dan Cavanagh and vibes man Dave Hagedorn. Hagedorn, head of jazz at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, is a familiar artist on the Twin Cities jazz scene, appearing nearly monthly with both the Pete Whitman X-Tet and Phil Hey Quartet at the Artists Quarter.  Cavanagh, at St. Paul native and former student of Dave at St. Olaf, has forged a successful career as a mostly big band performer, composer and educator, currently on the faculty of the University of Texas at Arlington. I remember the last time Cavanagh and Hagedorn performed at the Artists Quarter, about a year ago, when a really cold and nasty night numbed my motivation to leave home. “Maybe the best gig I ever heard at the AQ” was the comment I heard from fans who would know. Fortunately, the duo’s new recording, Horizon, confirms what I missed but ensures continuous enjoyment of the pairing.

Dan and Dave first met at St. Olaf in September 1997 when Dan was a first-year student and Dave in his first year directing jazz bands. Although a piano student, Dan ended up taking private vibes lessons from Dave in order to learn jazz improvisation and theory.  For his first recital, they reversed roles, with Dan on vibes and Dave on piano. Dan went on to earn his undergrad degree and then his master’s degree in jazz and composition at the University of Oregon. Now Associate Director of Jazz Studies and an Associate Professor of Music at UT Arlington, Dan is an Honorary Fellow of the National Academy of Music in Greece, was a Prizewinner in the 2009 International Music Prizes for Excellence in Composition, and has received numerous awards for composition, including the 2002, 2005, and 2007 ASCAP Young Jazz Composers competitions, and ASCAPLUS awards each year since 2003. His list of commissions is quite lengthy, and his works appear on his Jazz Emporium Big Band release, Pulse (2008). In addition to his own ensembles, Dan has performed with Terrell Stafford, Jon Irabagon, Jeff Coffin, Jason Marsalis, the Adonis Rose Quintet, Remy Le Boeuf, Linda Oh, the Fort Worth Jazz Orchestra, John Riley, and Grammy-winners Joe McCarthy and Irma Thomas. 

Dave Hagedorn©Andrea Canter
Assistant Professor of Music at St. Olaf, Dave Hagedorn teaches percussion, jazz studies and world music. His education includes a BS in Music Education from the University of Minnesota (where he studied with Marv Dahlgren), an MM in Percussion Performance from the New England Conservatory in Boston (where he studied with Vic Firth), and a DMA from the Eastman School of Music (where he studied with John Beck). Among his performance and recording credits are two albums and tours with the George Russell Living Time Orchestra, recording with Debbie Duncan, performances with David Berkman, Anthony Braxton, Armen Donelian, Gil Evans, Urbie Green, Haopy Apple, Thad Jones, Vince Mendoza, Tiger Okoshi, Julian Priester, Rufus Reid, Clark Terry, Steve Turre, Kenny Wheeler, Anthony Cox, Bobby Shew, and Roy Hargrove. Locally he is a member of the X-Tet, Phil Hey Quartet, Out to Lunch Quintet, Low Blow, and the duo SCHAG with drummer Dave Schmalenberger. He released Solid Liquid on the Artegra label in 2003. 


Dan and Dave recorded Horizon over two days in January 2010 at the new recording studio at UT Arlington after playing a concert of this material at the university. The set list includes four originals from Cavanagh, two takes of one composition from Swedish pianist/composer Lars Jansson, a cover from Kenny Wheeler, classic standards “Cry Me a River” and “Stormy Weather,” and a juxtaposition of Debussy and Monk. 

Opening with “For Jan” (Kenny Wheeler), the vibes take the melodic lead, with Cavanagh comping with quickly stated chords that evolve into a more complex accompaniment. The partnership between piano and vibes is both elegant and empathetic, Hagedorn providing fluidity, Cavanagh providing rhythmic tension. On “Cry Me a River,” the duo offers an upbeat arrangement of what is often a tragic or sarcastic reading. Dan’s lilting vamp marries well to Dave’s bright melody line, and their trade-off continues the swinging feel of a jilted lover planning a sweet revenge. “Stormy Weather” offers a somewhat gentle weather pattern,  but there’s a gathering of dark clouds. The two musicians stretch out here with their longest (more than 7 1/2 minutes) track, entwining, meandering. 

Lars Johnson’s “One Hand Clapping” appears twice (Take 1 and Take 2) with several tracks in between the two takes.  The first is a slowly evolving, reflective reverie, each voice making its statement as the other fills lingering spaces, while faster tempos briefly bring more playful exchanges. Dave and Dan’s second effort takes more risks harmonically and rhythmically. One hand can not clap alone; but the two “hands” (piano and vibes) working together yield sounds and moods that would be impossible separately. 

Among Cavanagh’s original works, “Drought” is a celestial journey – hardly a drought of ideas, but somewhat suggestive of the lonely beauty of a desert, or of a human voice singing above sympathetic piano counterpoint. “Halcyon” is well –titled, a beautiful floater, exquisitely wistful, while “Last Look” is another stunner, the flow occasionally interrupted with a surprise chord or shift in the tempo, and consequently the mood becomes more upbeat. The title track launches ever so gently, Dan’s simple piano line lingering over subtle tones from Dave, then in reversed roles. There’s an immediate tug on the ear as the listener is pulled into an intimate, harp-like conversation. Cavanagh’s explorations widen in scope without leaving the melodic core, while Hagedorn ensures gentle harmony throughout. 

“Violes/Four in One” marries Debussy to Monk, which in some respects seems descriptive of this entire set, lush melodies and gentle lyricism offset by rhythmic adventures, bluesy swing and quirky harmonies. Monk seems to work particularly well with this instrumentation, and these musicians, who often seem to be moving through the music like mirror images—a musical yin and yang, the whole greater than the sum of the two parts. 

Notes Dan Cavanagh, “It’s great playing duets with Dave—we’re going to try this summer and next fall to take the duo out on the road a bit.” If that road is near you,  be sure to capture the music live. But in the meantime, a copy of Horizon will have to suffice. 

Horizon is available from Dan at


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