The uncharted territories that the British bass player Dave Holland explores on this engrossing release are the in-the-moment creations of a cross-generational, equal-partners, transatlantic quartet. The terrain varies from the phantasmagorical shapes of tonal abstraction to clean-lined lyricism that pulsates with warmth. And with different configurations adding to the textural colours and rhythmic contours on display, the vibrant 2xCD/ triple album grips throughout.
Holland’s reputation is built on the mastery of time and pulse with which he propelled such Miles Davis albums as Bitches Brew. It surfaces here in a trio featuring pianist Craig Taborn and Ches Smith on drums, two leading lights of America’s contemporary left field.
But for the most part, Holland applies his firm lines and resonant tone to the free jazz methods he pioneered in late 1960s London alongside the likes of saxophonist Evan Parker, who plays tenor on this recording. And with Taborn complimenting Parker’s bell-tone murmurations and Smith equally astute, Holland’s through-form jazz sounds fresh, resolute and contemporary.
The album opens with understated Parker sax ruminating on Ches Smith’s “Thought on Earth”, one of three quartet pieces composed prior to the two-day recording session that delivered this set. Smith, who doubles on vibes, establishes a strong sense of key before a switch to drums makes tonality less clear cut. Later, Holland’s “Q&A” skitters through a dense tapestry of lines, and on the second CD Smith’s “Unsteady as She Goes” features mournful sax and rumbles of mallets.
The titles of the through-improvised tracks are coded by configuration presented, the day of the recording and the take number. Thus, the ethereal “Tenor-Bass W3”, featuring bassist Holland and saxophonist Parker, was the third take recorded on the Wednesday session, and the shimmering fragments of the quartet track “QT5” were the fifth take recorded on the Tuesday. The naming creates an austere impression for a band whose constituent parts roar to a peak, unfold magically into space, and, when combined, speak so eloquently as one.
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