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Stevie Holland: Before Love Has Gone

Her sound is as pure and potent as aqua vitae, as warm and richly mature as vieille rèserve cognac. There is also an enticing stillness about Stevie Holland that can alternately suggest a fountain crafted of the smoothest, creamiest Carrera marble or a roaring fire, its flames reflected in deep-polished oak. (If there’s any criticism to be laid, it’s that those flames occasionally burn a degree or two hotter than necessary.)

On this, her fourth album, Holland is joined by such superior players as pianist Martin Bejerano, bassist Edward Perez, drummer Willie Jones III, saxophonist Ole Mathisen and guitarist Paul Bollenback, rock solid as a unit but given ample opportunity to individually stir her tranquility.

Holland’s interesting choice of covers extends from the beatific quietude of Leonard Bernstein’s “Make Our Garden Grow” (from Candide) and wise, world-weary sophistication of “Here’s to Your Illusions” to the spicy shimmer of the Astaire-Rogers chestnut “Carioca” and ebb-and-flow desire of Carly Simon’s “Riverboat Gambler.” Equally impressive are two Holland originals, both written with her husband, arranger/conductor Gary William Friedman. The title track (superbly embellished by Mathisen’s horn) is a contemplative affair built around a disintegrating relationship. Conversely, “The Music in Me That Plays” (much enriched by Bollenback) is a shimmering samba that exalts bracing new love.

Originally Published