Though Richie Beirach isn't obscure, he isn't as well-known as he should be. A flexible pianist, Beirach can be quite lyrical on standards, although being cerebral and abstract also comes easy to him. One of the more cerebral, unsentimental albums he recorded in the '90s was Trust, a fine post-bop trio date boasting Dave Holland on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums.
Dave Holland's debut as a leader, Conference of the Birds, doesn't seem to get its proper due outside of avant-garde circles; perhaps, when discussing the greats, Holland's name simply doesn't spring to mind as immediately. Whatever the case, Conference of the Birds is one of the all-time avant-garde jazz classics, incorporating a wide spectrum of '60s innovations. Part of the reason it works so well is the one-time-only team-up of two avant-garde legends: the fiery, passionate Sam Rivers and the cerebral Anthony Braxton; they complement and contrast one another in energizing fashion throughout.
Stylewise, the music on this CD sounds much closer to a mid-'60s Blue Note release than what one might expect from ECM. Although the general sound of the ensembles is light, the music is often filled with inner heat, a little reminiscent of a Wayne Shorter record. Altoist Eric Person and vibraphonist Steve Nelson work well together, bassist Dave Holland takes plenty of solo space, drummer Gene Jackson keeps the momentum flowing and guest vocalist Cassandra Wilson does a fine job on Maya Angelou's poem "Equality." Holland's originals have plenty of variety in moods while close attention is paid to dynamics. A satisfying and thought-provoking session.
Bassist Dave Holland has been at the forefront of experimental, forward-thinking jazz ever since his formative years playing in Miles Davis' fusion ensemble. His 2013 album, Prism, finds Holland returning to his crossover funk roots with an able-bodied quartet. Featured here are former Tonight Show guitarist Kevin Eubanks, pianist/Rhodes keyboardist Craig Taborn, and drummer Eric Harland. All of these musicians have reputations for playing adventurous, genre-bending styles of jazz, making them perfectly suited for the project at hand. Holland's fourth outing on his own Dare2 Records, Prism follows his 2008 sextet date Pass It On, his 2010 octet album Pathways, and his 2010 flamenco-inspired Hands.
The trio glides effortlessly between bebop passages, tonal and atonal breaks and some passionate soloing. Rivers switches between tenor and soprano saxophones, flute and piano, each with its own personality. His tenor paints wide splotches of sound, while his soprano cuts more precise channels. On flute he pops and floats, and his piano sound is informed by a more charming Cecil Taylor. Where Holland’s current ensembles featured his organization, here he is freed up to explore without a map. He takes several solos, passages unexpected yet built like a hurricane-proofed structure.
Dave Holland is best known as one of the great jazz bassists of his generation. Pepe Habichuela is an awe-inspiring flamenco guitarist. The two of them together, with Josemi and Carlos Carmona on additional guitars as well as a pair of percussionists, prove to be a wonderful combination. Holland brings his own experience to flamenco, subsuming himself in the genre, his bass imitating a voice on the glorious "Camaron," and giving free rein to the percussionists on "Joyride."
Kenny Wheeler is among the most lyrically commanding yet daring of modern trumpeters. There's a palpable ease of execution, and a poignant human quality, to his distinctive timbre, as on the title tune where his fluttering descents into the lower register, the cracked yet powerful vocal inflections, and the sudden emission of high harmonics suggest a whistling column of air slowly leaking from a balloon. And from the moody Spanish tinge of "Present Past" to the raga-ish Nordic gravity of "Unti," alto player Lee Konitz matches Wheeler's lyric ease with a singing sound and rhythmic buoyancy all his own.
Holland picks up here where he left off on Emerald Tears with this overlooked solo album, which finds him swapping his usual upright for cello. While Holland is obviously no stranger to the instrument, it is such a rare pleasure to hear the cello alone at his bow. The bread and butter of this set is the eponymous five-parter, which indeed seems to trace a life from beginning to end. It is not only a cycle, but also its affirmation, such that the birth cries of “Inception” rend us with the thrill of being in a way that suggests awareness of a former existence.