Dave Holland Quartet: Dream Of The Elders (ECM 1572)

 

Dave Holland Quartet
Dream of the Elders

Dave Holland double-bass
Steve Nelson vibraphone, marimba
Eric Person alto, soprano saxophones
Gene Jackson drums
Cassandra Wilson vocal
Recorded March 1995, Power Station, New York
Engineer: James Farber
Produced by Manfred Eicher

This incarnation of the Dave Holland Quartet finds the double bassist in the excellent company of mallet man Steve Nelson, saxophonist Eric Person, and drummer Gene Jackson. The combination is a fortuitous one and glistens under the ECM heat lamp. A characteristic bass line sets us on “The Winding Way,” the theme of which Person’s soprano rides like sunlight on the fin of a dolphin, followed not far behind by a string of underwater acrobatics from vibes. So begins a set of eight immodest Holland originals, averaging over nine minutes apiece. The length is never for its own sake, due only to the sheer amount of stories these musicians have to convey. Take “Lazy Snake,” for example, which begins with a gritty bass solo before swaying, dressed to the nines, like a debutante onto an empty dance floor. A marvelous joint that truly showcases the interlocking imaginations of these fearless four. At the marimba, Nelson moves from solo to vamp as the sky from dusk to midnight, dimming a meditative alto to finish. After a few sprightly turns in “Claressence,” vocalist Cassandra Wilson makes a guest appearance on “Equality.” Said attribute defines not only this tune but also the band as a whole. Hers is a voice that yearns for freedom, sliding lovers like beads off a string until the hummingbird of her resolve is left hovering. “Ebb & Flow” does much more of the latter than the former, proving once again why Nelson is the star on this date, further enlivening the spidery altoism of the title track and setting off a spate of cathartic drumming. Of the rhythm section we must also take note in “Second Thoughts.” Its blink-of-an-eye precision invigorates fabulous solos from vibes and alto for a telltale journey of the heart, ending with an instrumental reprise of “Equality,” sultry and debonair.

Dream Of The Elders lives up to its title. Just listen to Person soloing on “Ebb & Flow” and you’ll understand the lengths to which these souls will travel to translate the language of their genealogies into a vernacular we can all feel and understand. Easy as pie, sans sugar crash.

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