Points of View
From 1972's Conference of the Birds to the present, bassist-composer Dave Holland has consistently fielded great bands and presented intelligent, challenging, surging music. In spite of the brilliance of past outings like 1983's Jumpin In, with Kenny Wheeler, Julian Priester, and a young Steve Coleman, or 1989's Extensions, this one may be his finest yet.
By blending Robin Eubanks' warm trombone and Steve Wilson's soprano and alto saxes with Steve Nelson's shimmering vibes, Holland works with a wide palette of tones and colors throughout this superb project. And he paints some particularly beautiful pictures on "The Balance," "Mr. B," the haunting "Beduoin Trail" and the dreamy "Ario" with its floating harmonies and cascading counterpoint.
Each member of this crack quintet is a virtuosic soloist and bandleader in his own right, giving this group an added sense of depth. But the secret weapon here is drummer Billy Kilson, who elevates the proceedings with an uncanny combination of precision, power and grace. He beautifully underscores the ethereal vibe on "Bedouin Trail" with subtle use of mallets then erupts with explosive snare-tom accents in the midst of some sizzling ride cymbal-hi hat work on the urgently swinging "Herbaceous" that mark him as the new heir to Tony Williams' chair. Kilson even offers a thrilling Cobhamesque solo on "Ario."
Holland's huge tones, exact intonation and impeccable time are prominent on "Metamorphosis," an edgy, metrically obtuse funk vehicle that harkens back to the bassist's late '80s collaborations with Steve Coleman, Greg Osby, Robin Eubanks, and the M-BASE collective. His vocal arco work is highlighted in a lovely duet with Nelson's vibes at the intro to "The Benevolent One."
The album closes on a relatively naive note with a lilting calypso, "Serenade," a simple trio offering with bass, drums and Nelson's marimbas carrying the melody. It's a bit of an oasis after so much challenging music and so many compelling solos.