Miroslav Vitous & Dave Holland
Two bass players separated by mere months of age, both initially influenced by the LaFaro/Peacock school of thought, and both arriving at the burgeoning of a whole new era of jazz are featured on these ECM new releases. Both bassists took diverging paths and Universal Syncopations and Extended Play provide an insightful comparison.
Miroslav Vitous, at one time the darling of the fusion world, and a member of the original Weather Report, essentially dropped out of the music scene to dedicate his time to musical academia. Judging by his latest recording, his first in many years, the music world has been the worse without him. Universal Syncopations essentially starts where Weather Report’s Live in Tokyo left off. Remember, WR was initially a freer, more acoustic, and in many ways, more adventurous band than it’s later incarnations.
These nine pieces could easily be an extrapolation of the direction WR could have gone had Vitous remained with the band. "Bamboo Forest," "Miro Bop," and "Brazil Waves" have a pastoral quality to them that belie their complexity and intensity. Jan Garbarek (reeds) gives unusually warm, Shorter influenced solos, particularly inventive on "Univoyage." Supplying drive and keeping the pieces cohesive are fusion vets Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette and John McLauglin, augmented by a very tasty brass section for three of the pieces. Vitous, himself, conducts a bass workshop on this session. Alternating between playing lead, melody, or driving the other musicians to higher planes of existence, Vitous is playing like a man with something to prove.
Dave Holland Quintet
Extended Play: Live at Birdland
In contrast, the Dave Holland Quintet has been working together for a number of years. Extended Play is a live document of this talented and unique band. Whereas Vituos’ disc consisted of a one time only recording band, Holland’s working band stretches each piece to the limit (only one song on this two-disc set is under ten minutes). Filled with lengthy, intense and emotional solos by perennially underrateds Chris Potter (saxophones) and Robin Eubanks (trombone), Extended waxes and wanes like a hurricane.
Eubanks gives a lesson in harmonics, alternating between screeches and incredible dexterity on the freer pieces. Keeping the whole evening together is the dark, deep, warm bass of Holland, providing accessible dancing lines for the frontline to take off from. Together with Billy Kilson on drums and Steve Nelson on vibes and marimba, Holland and company provide a rock solid foundation that keeps the listener intrigued with the lengthy solos. The wonderful thing about a live performance such as this is the opportunity to experience a working band in it’s milieu.
Listening to these two recordings is akin to watching an old reunion. It’s a pleasure to hear them compare notes.
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Tracks: Bamboo Forest/ Univoyage/ Tramp Blues/ Faith Run/ Sun Flower/ Miro Bop/ Beethoven/ Medium/ Brazil Waves
Personnel: Universal: Miroslav Vitous- bass; Jan Garbarek- soprano, tenor saxophone; Chick Corea- piano; John McLaughlin- guitar; Jack DeJohnette- drums
Extended Play: Live at Birdland
Tracks: Extended: The Balance/ High Wire/ Jugglers Parade/ Make Believe/ Free for All/ Claressence/ Prime Directive/ Bedouin Trail/ Metamorphos
Personnel: Dave Holland- bass; Robin Eubanks- trombone; Billy Kilson-drums; Steve Nelson- marimba, vibraphone; Chris Potter- alto, soprano, and tenor saxophone