Dave Holland: Rarum X: Selected Recordings (2004)
Bassist and bandleader Dave Holland's career is oddly yet movingly outlined in this collection. Since the artist is responsible for the eleven tunes culled from ten various albums, I have to assume there was a sound reason for neglecting to include anything from What Goes Around, his forceful 2002 big band session featuring many of his finest original compositions.
Getting past that omission, there is a tantalizing assortment of intelligently crafted and lovingly performed music in this showcase, ranging from an austerely angular solo cello piece ("Inception") to a selection from that classic of free jazz, "Conference of the Birds," with the peerless pair of Sam Rivers and Anthony Braxton. Of particular note is "Equality," with a vocal by Cassandra Wilson that sounds superior to anything on Wilson's own last few albums. Based on a musical setting for Maya Angelou's poem of the same title, it deserves to be singled out as a rare example of a perfect synthesis of jazz and poetry. Holland's bass lines show a striking sensitivity to the verbal nuances of Angelou's poetry.
Ten out of the eleven selections are Holland originals, and a few, like "Shifting Sands," make you wonder why they haven't been covered by others. Coleman's various bands shine without stealing fire from the bassist, and vibraphonist Steve Nelson is a particularly smart colorist.
Oddly sequenced so that the selections begin with 1994 and conclude with 1972, this Rarum is a testimony to how mature Holland's art has been for decades. This career retrospective is less a record of a radical stylistic change over the decades than a deepening of a rare musical sensibility. What could be finer?
Track Listing: 1. How's Never?, 2. You I Love, 3. Inception, 4. The Balance, 5. Equality, 6. Nemesis, 7. Shifting Sands, 8. Four Winds, 9. Prime Directive, 10. Homecoming, 11. Conference of the Birds
Personnel: Dave Holland, John Abercromble, Jack deJohnette, Steve Coleman, Kenny Wheeler, Julian Priester, Steve Ellington, Steve Wilson, Robin Eubanks, Steve Nelson, Cassandra Wilson, Eric Pearson, Gene Jackson, and others.