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British bassist and jazz veteran Dave Holland (b. 1946) has refashioned his ever iconoclastic quintet to feature Steve Wilson's sax and Robin Eubank's trombone interacting with former Quintet partner Steve Nelson's pianistic vibes and Billy Kilson's aggressively sensitive drumming.
Holland cites the guiding influence of Duke Ellington in his Points of View. And while there is something starkly modern even unique in the bassist/composer's conceptions, there really is evidence that the great Ellington has inspired Holland's approach here. Witness the melodic contours, the imaginative countermelody, the rhythmic variation and a high level of writing specifically tailored to the individual voices carrying the melodies. It's all there - even though it sounds like nothing Ellingtonian.
This outstanding set features eight strong, diverse originals (five by Holland and one each by Eubanks, Wilson and Nelson), each departing from the too-often standard jazz vocabulary in unique ways. Consider the way Holland suggests the flights of freedom in West Coast cool on "Mr. B" (dedicated to fan Holland's early role model Ray Brown). Or the way he uses a "Round Midnight" pastiche to explore bop alternatives in "Bedouin Trail" (nicely spotlighting Eubanks' classy trombone).
Also of note are the modally orchestrated "Herbaceous" (dedicated to Holland's former trio leader and Parallel Realities section mate, Herbie Hancock - and featuring quite a workout by Holland behind the other's challenging leads), the arched funk of Eubanks' "Metamorphos, the swinging and serious lead off in "The Balance," and Nelson's appropriately set-closing Caribbean lullaby, "Serenade."
But such diversity should not suggest a random collection of styles thrown together to merely illustrate range. There is an engaging unity to the sounds heard throughout Points of View, primarily to the credit of Holland as a leader and his associates' abilities as individual stylists. No one soloist shines greater than any other and each get a significant share of the spotlight for engaging commentary. In fact, in a blindfold test it would be difficult to tell which instrumentalist here is the leader.
Points of View is fine creative music, often revealing new shades of enjoyment upon each new hearing. And once again, one of jazz's finest bassists has assembled a tremendous ensemble offering plenty of fulfilling artistry. Recommended.
Songs:The Balance; Mr. B.; Bedouin Trail; Metamophos; Ario; Herbaceous; The Benevolent One; Serenade.
Players:Robin Eubanks: trombone; Steve Wilson: soprano and alto saxophones; Steve Nelson: vibraphone and marimba; Billy Kilson: drums; Dave Holland: double bass.