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.