REVIEW: ‘Another Land’ – Dave Holland

IN A CAREER spanning an astonishing seven decades, the name of master bassist Dave Holland is affectionately known to most in the sphere of contemporary jazz. Working with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Kenny Wheeler, Jack DeJohnette, John Abercombie, Pat Metheny (the list goes on) – and extraordinarily prolific for many, many years on the revered ECM label, leading or contributing to around 40 albums – his legendary status has long been assured.

More recently, his Crosscurrents Trio performances with percussionist Zakir Hussain and saxophonist Chris Potter revealed a wonderful camaraderie that enfolded the most glorious acoustic sounds, followed-up by an album – Good Hope. Now, moving on from that 2019 release, Dave Holland extends his association with Edition Records in Another Land – a striking gear-shift of a project with guitarist Kevin Eubanks and drummer Obed Calvaire.

Those mostly familiar with the veteran bassist’s upright stance alongside his full-bodied or Czech Eaze instruments will, here, instantly identify a quite different environment as a number of the album’s dynamic jazz-rock grooves are driven by electric bass, tuning into the fervid invention and tracery of Eubanks, plus Calvaire’s vehement, often thunderous presence behind the kit. Describing the live shows that informed this New York studio recording, Holland relates that once their continuous set began, they rarely stopped. That sense of being deep within the groove is palpable here, and totally infectious. Indeed, the fullness, equality and adaptability of this trio’s sound is pivotal across 68 minutes which feel like they could run and run.

Funk-laden Grave Walker mixes up 7/8 beats with mellow, shuffling riffs, Eubanks completely at one with his crunching, pitch-bent rhythms and improvised melodies; and the exchange of knowing nods and smiles can easily be envisaged throughout its propulsive yet precise course. 20 20, too, ripples with purpose, Holland’s double-bass euphony just as integrated with the exciting, Jimi Hendrixian blues/rock of Eubanks as its more subdued sequences – again, this cohesive triumvirate turns out so many variations and moods within a single number. Holland’s alternating trip-up figure sets up elegant title track Another Land, whose bossa-suggested gyrations provide space to illuminate detail; and the bassist’s Quiet Fire is reimagined, pared down in a sensitive and enchanting solo guitar arrangement.

Back on the groove trail, the ‘playground chant’ of Calvaire’s South American-hued Gentle Warrior is a delight as it proceeds towards Holland’s tireless, rhythmic soloing and an audacious, scratchy feature from Eubanks. For rock energy and complexity, the guitarist’s Mashup takes some beating, its velocity prompting an amazing, collaborative saturation of ideas; and hearing Holland’s electric bass meshing with Eubanks’ tones is just stunning – conceivably it enjoys considerable development in a live setting. Ice-cool bass and guitar licks/improv in Passing Time drift blithely, supported by crisp, percussive colour, while Holland provides The Village’s deep, blue bass as Eubanks chromatically ascends (with fabulous fretboard and pedal techniques) to the crackling accompaniment of Calvaire. Closing, the guitarist leads his soulfully smooth Bring It Back Home with an unashamedly ostentatious swagger.

Always progressive in both outlook and his support of new talent, now in his mid-seventies, Dave Holland has created a zestful trio partnership whose classy, full-on grooving is repeatedly a joy to get into.

Released on 28 May 2021, Another Land is available in various formats at Edition Records.

 

Dave Holland bass, bass guitar
Kevin Eubanks guitar
Obed Calvaire drums

daveholland.com

Edition Records – EDN1172 (2021)

‘Floa’ – Mammal Hands

Floa

NORWICH-BASED Mammal Hands’ debut album Animalia (2014) considerably raised the profile of saxophonist Jordan Smart, pianist Nick Smart and drummer Jesse Barnett – a trio apparently discovered by GoGo Penguin’s bassist, Nick Blacka. Since then, they have continued to garner interest in the UK, as well as enjoy international popularity (including gigs at festivals in the United States and Canada). Back in the recording studio, they now return with follow-up, Floa.

Comparisons with GoGo Penguin and the Portico Quartet are understandable (listen to the first three tracks, and this might be the GoGos with Jack Wyllie guesting). But Jordan Smart’s saxophone prowess does provide Mammal Hands with an organic, melodic advantage as he shapes his improvisations around the predominant piano ostinati; and notably, as this nine-track album proceeds, the trio pleasingly begin to develop their own, distinct voice.

So, opening numbers Quiet Fire, Hillum and Hourglass easily recall the aforementioned bands’ output, their trancelike repetition ebbing, flowing and gradually crescendoing to greater intensity (steadily-filling Hourglass, in particular, possesses – perhaps with an intended reference in the title – an appealing Philip Glass-like hypnotism with beautifully unexpected key shifts). But a change of gear in the form of a Dave Brubeckian 5/4 swing, in fourth track Think Anything, opens up a whole new vista of interest – a joyful, dancing blend of American jazz and European folk which invites intensifying improvisation from pianist Nick Smart, as well as the opportunity to create catchy, swirling riffs in fourths with Jordan Smart’s alto. Similarly, the sit-up-and-listen effect of In the Treetops suggests Mammal Hands eking out their own identity, as a highly repetitive sax figure is enhanced by Ibiza-style sustained strings.

By this mid-point, there’s the realisation that this music has the ability to seep and flow into the senses, as in the subtle, almost Oriental placidity of The Eyes that Saw the Mountain – yet here is a track which also sparkles with fresh, heavier grooving expressions. Kudu equally reveals that there is much more to this trio than the album first suggests; effective details such as Nick Smart’s low, undulating piano motifs and Jesse Barnett’s tabla resonance create something special in this increasingly energetic, high-point number. Miniature The Falling Dream indicates an aptitude for more filmic textures, with a gently cascading, Brian Eno-like dreaminess; so, too, does changeable Shift, whose eventual rockiness contrasts markedly with dramatically-charged serenity.

Striking, minimalistic cover art apart, don’t judge a book by its cover – i.e. immerse yourself in this whole album’s riches to understand how Mammal Hands are successfully charting their own course… and enjoy.

Released on 27 May 2016, Floa is available as CD, download and vinyl from Bandcamp.

 

Jordan Smart saxophones
Nick Smart piano
Jesse Barnett drums, tabla
with
Gavin Barras bass
Natalie Purton violin, viola

mammal hands.com

Gondwana Records – GONDCD014 (2016)