Molly Holm: Permission

C. Michael Bailey By

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Vocalist Molly Holm has had a potent progressive ("Avant-garde") presence in the Bay Area for three decades, having been an original member of Bobby McFerrin's Voicestra and was a featured singer with Terry Riley and Zakir Hussain. Creatively, Holm never grew up into the proper, standard-singing chanteuse that many of her contemporaries did, rather she has remained on the cutting edge of jazz vocals—exactly where she belongs.

Permission is an eclectic collection of vocal jazz standards — most having the lyrics composed after the music—and six Holm originals that fit seamlessly into the universal groove of the disc. Edgy and defiant, Holm's musical approach is to push the envelope and her supporting musicians right up to the point of post-modern deconstruction, stopping just in time before her efforts disintegrate into ravenous particles.

The only true "standard" on the disc is a subdued ballad reading of "You Don't Know What Love Is," whose inclusion could have been based on Holm wanting to prove she can sing it straight. It does serve as a nice contrast to something like Holm's own "Improvised Raga," smacking of elastic electric bass bubbling funk crossed with Eastern Plainchant dissolving into Chick Corea's "Sea Journey." Mark van Wageningen's bass playing is virtuosic as a lead instrument while Holm takes the song into sophisticated contemporary jazz territory.

Holm's title original is hypnotic over a simple rhythmic and harmonic figure. The piece provides a suitable vehicle for Holm's vocal experimentations over Frank Martin's probing piano. Larry Schneider provides a lengthy and meandering Coltranesque solo over the scaffolding of the song. "Permission" provides a good foil to Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue" which Holm stretches into assorted sizes giving the piece wide-open spaces.

The two highlights are Charles Mingus's "Good Bye Pork Pie Hat" (with lyrics by Rahsaan Roland Kirk) and Thelonious Monk's "Straight, No Chaser." The former stands up to any performance of this Mingus homage to Lester Young. Acoustic Bassist Jeff Chambers defies the time-space continuum with his limber pizzicato seasoned with Schneider's soprano horn and Martin's piano accents. This is eight-plus minutes of bliss. "Straight, No Chaser" is taken in the musical vernacular into which it was born. Trombonist Wayne Wallace polishes off Monk's jagger edges without harming his virile dissonance. It swings the hardest on this most satisfying and gratifying recording.

Track Listing: Improvised Raga; Sea Journey; Permission; The Bear; Go There Now; Goodbye Pork Pie Hat; Secret Words; Something Else; Afro Blue; Straight No Chaser; You Don't Know What Love Is; Song at Seventeen.

Personnel: Molly Holm: vocalist and composer; Larry Schneider: soprano saxophone; Frank Martin: piano; Jeff Chambers: acoustic bass; Famoudou Don Moye; Deszon Clairborne: drums; Antonia Minnecola: North Indian vocal percussion; Wayne Wallace: trombone; Bill Bell: piano; Eddie Marshall: drums; Marc van Wageningen: electric bass; Paul van Wageningen: drums; David Frazier: percussion.

Title: Permission | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Self Produced


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