Joel Holmes: Eternal Vision

Joel Holmes may make you think of Robert Glasper. He’s got the dreads, the youth, the chops, the energy, and the gospel/hip-hop connections. But whereas Glasper assembles his plethora of historical and contemporary influences into rivers of ideas that threaten to overflow their banks, Holmes is a more conventional player. His nonjazz eclectic elements are more controlled, and further below the surface.

Holmes is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. His well-crafted compositions are expressions of his Christian faith, with titles like “Holyspirit” and “Divine Revelation” and “Tomorrow’s Light.” They are pleasant but melodically unremarkable, and do not carry the depth and passion that Holmes intends. Holmes becomes more interesting when he extends these pieces through his fleet, orderly improvisations.

His boldest decision here is to offer four short, very different takes on “Body and Soul,” all with creative fragmentations of the song, usually over bassist Herman Burney’s broken ostinatos. The end of Part IV nicely closes a free-form loop by referring back briefly to the formal drama that began Part I. The other standards (“Solar,” “It Could Happen to You”) are entertaining but not memorable.

Eternal Vision is an uneven recording debut that reveals talent. Joel Holmes is a name to file and track.

Thomas Conrad

Thomas Conrad has a BA from the University of Utah and an MA from the University of Iowa (where he attended the Writers Workshop). He taught English at Central State University in Ohio, then left the academic world for the private sector. His affiliation with publications such as JazzTimes, Stereophile, The New York City Jazz Record and DownBeat has enabled him to sustain active involvement in two of his passions: music and writing.