Dave Holland Sextet: Pass It On (Emarcy)
Yes, it’s predictable. Another Dave Holland and another full house of stars.The band may have changed but the standards are always of the highest, the playing is always exciting and the music enriching.
Gone is the novel line-up of the Holland Quintet – vibraphone instead of piano. Trombonist Robin Eubanks remains from that group but is joined by Antonio Hart on alto, Alex Sipiagin on trumpet, Mulgrew Miller on piano and Eric Harland on drums.
The opener, The Sum Of All Parts, says it all both in title and its compelling mix of solo and ensemble playing. Holland, in his writing and arranging, manages to give a jazz combo the range and richness of a big band, while still leaving lots of space for individual expression.
There is nothing outlandish here, nothing fanciful, headline grabbing, or even overtly innovative. What there is is timeless jazz of an exceptional artistic integrity. The very opposite of a fashionable purchase – this is an investment that will not fade.
Wolfgang Muthspiel 4tet: Earth Mountain (Material Records)
The Austrian guitarist was last heard in a duo setting with Tunisian oud player Dhafer Youssef (they played a great set at this year’s Coventry Jazz Festival) but here he is leading a quartet. Swiss pianist Jean-Paul Brodbeck joins the Austrian twin bass and drum team of Matthias and Andreas Pilcher, with nearly all the material written by Muthspiel.
It’s a fine band that can turn its hand to lyrical “acoustic” jazz or turn the fusion switch as needed. All are concise and cogent improvisers, and Muthspiel seems to grow in stature with each release. This has the accessibility of a Pat Metheny Group album without the rock stadium grandeur – much more intimate and club-sized, but able to groove hard.
Charles Lloyd: Dream Weaver – The Atlantic Years 1966-1969 (Warner Jazz)
What you get on this double disc is selections from both live and studio albums the tenor saxophonist made when he became the jazz darling of the rock festival crowd. It’s also the time when he fostered the nascent careers of two brilliant youngsters: drummer Jack DeJohnette and pianist Keith Jarrett.
The Coltrane influence (though perhaps without the same degree of gravitas) is clear on a long live work like Tribal Dance. Jarrett even quotes Coltrane at the beginning of his solo in this one. Some of the recorded sound is as flaky as you would expect from ‘60s live recording with DeJohnette’s cymbals particularly ill-served. Still, there’s lots of excitement. If you don’t own Forest Flower, and are too young to remember the ‘60s – dip into this one.
Surinder Sandhu: The Fictionist (Saurango)
Surinder Sandhu plays the traditional North Indian violin called the sarangi and has hugely eclectic taste which leads him to write music mixing Indian, jazz, classical orchestral and prog rock elements. The results are richly exotic and can be uplifting and delightful… or they can be a bit of mess.
This was written for Liverpool’s Capital of Culture year and is played by the RLPO with Sandhu’s Birmingham-based jazz group and others.
At the centre is his Symphony No 1, and it is surrounded by other pieces that don’t sound particularly different. All have moments of interest and the contrasting textures – for example of soaring orchestra strings, slapped electric bass, rock drums and solo sarangi in the first movement of the symphony – are attractive. But beyond the textures and instrumental prowess I find it difficult to make much sense of it. I can’t help feeling a narrower scope and a sharper focus would result in music of more efficient communication and probably greater profundity.