With 1998's "Slyfi", Dave's fourth solo release, he finally achieves complete musical success that eluded him on his three previous outings. Here, Dave sounds up to date and even joyous. Great songs like "Happy To Be Here", "Leaving This Earth", "Even The Bad Times (Were Good Times)" and "AWOL" make this release worth owning. All 10 tracks fit together very nicely with minimal filler or waste. Dave tones down "Greetings From The Gutter"'s heavy r&b influence and blends it with electronica here for nice effect. I find it interesting that one year before reuniting with Annie Lennox for "Peace" that Dave Stewart was making some really great music that was absent from "Peace", which is perhaps why "Peace" didn't sell well in America among other things. If you are a fan of Dave's music or the Eurythmics, "Slyfi" is definitely worth owning.
This set works very well. Dave Grusin and his younger brother Don Grusin use a variety of keyboards to create a series of colorful duets. Other than Dori Caymmi's "Southern Wind," all of the fairly spontaneous yet well-planned performances are originals by one or both of the brothers. Even listeners who are not that much into electronics will find much of interest on this melodic and funky, yet often unpredictable set.
For this tight and enjoyable quartet date, bassist Dave Holland spread the composing opportunities around, his sidemen accounting for four of the six pieces. Arguably, none of these musicians ever sounded better, or more adventurous, than when performing in Holland's bands. While the leader himself retreated a good deal from his more routinely avant-garde recordings of the '70s, he appeared unwilling to allow his younger compadres to simply coast, instead evoking probing and thoughtful playing from them. Altoist Steve Coleman derives particular benefit from Holland's supervision, sounding far more fluid and confident than own his own rather more stilted albums.
Dave Holland's quintets and big bands have set a new high standard for modern mainstream and progressive jazz since the late '90s. While not a new assertion, and considering his entire body of work, Holland has time and time again proven his compositional theorems as valid, accessible, ever interesting, and especially memorable. Using a sextet, upright bassist Holland sets the bar even higher, adding the always tasteful pianist Mulgrew Miller and a four-horn front line that is relentless. This group continues to define jazz perfectly in the 21st century.