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Harold Land: Promised Land

AAJ Staff By

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Time allows, eventually, the opportunity for self-actualization—one hopes. After a long, under-appreciated career and sparse discography, tenor saxophonist, Harold Land, affirms his stature on this album as an individual stylist. Land’s sound has matured into something distinctly his own—a combination of the swing style of his early career and a full command of Coltrane-inspired “sheets of sound”.

This session provides a rich, satisfying experience. The songs on the diverse play list—Land originals, standards, and a Monk tune—have well-articulated themes; solid arrangements; and leave ample time for Land to display is angular, swinging style.

On the first half of the set, Land and Miller dominate—the presence of the featured Higgins is subdued. Tenor and piano provide firm solos on “Inner Voice”. Interspersed among his upper-register, vertical lines, Land throws in the occasional honk. Miller opens his solo fluidly laying down bright notes; towards the end he employs block chords. At the close of the solos, Land and Miller do trade bars with Higgins, but the drummer’s effort feels perfunctory and strained. The choice of playing “What’s New” as a duet exemplifies the dynamic between the two: bass and drums aren’t even in the picture. Land starts off sweetly—within the framework of the melody—then spirals into regions that keep things fresh. Miller backs him the whole way with heavy comping.

The recently deceased Higgins built a varied career playing in environments ranging from hard bop to free jazz. His ability to bring his own rhythmic sensibility to complement any style or setting manifests itself on the last half of this session. On “Dark Mood” and “Mapenzi”, Higgins establishes a firm groove and applies shifting time patterns to the basic rhythm. Moreover, he doesn’t ease off when Land and Miller solo: he hammers fills and rolls that accentuate their improvisation.

Notwithstanding the solid group dynamic between tenor and rhythm section, it is the leader’s voice that prevails throughout this set. Straight-ahead fans will find fulfillment in this album from an often-overlooked jazz veteran.


Title: Promised Land | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Audiophonic

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