Dave Holland: Uncharted Territories (Dare2)

Review of double-disc set by bassist in collaboration with saxophonist Evan Parker

Cover of Dave Holland album Uncharted Territories on Dare2
Cover of Dave Holland album Uncharted Territories on Dare2

Dave Holland and Evan Parker go way back, having first met during the British jazz avant-garde’s early flourishing in the 1960s. To have the bassist and saxophonist renew their lengthy acquaintance in a recording studio is notable enough, but to make matters more intriguing, they’ve hooked up on this double-disc set with two players of a younger generation and a similar free spirit, keyboardist Craig Taborn and drummer-percussionist Ches Smith. Only three of the 23 tracks were pre-written; the rest are free improvisations, titled according to their instrument combinations.

Smith’s “Thought on Earth” starts things off, its pensive intro leading into a more exploratory section in which each player occupies a distinct rhythmic zone, related to but barely overlapping with the others. From there, the group splits into duos and trios, occasionally reconverging as a quartet on the tracks that have “Q” in their names. “QW1” is an ominous slow-builder on which Smith moves from bowed cymbal to xylophone to vibes to drums. “QT12” comes across like a waggish parody of an uptempo bop tune.

Not shockingly, Holland and Parker acquit themselves well throughout. “Tenor-Bass W3” is an especially memorable instance of their pairing, as Holland’s upright responds to Parker’s burbling tenor with arco interjections that suggest the moans of a wounded beast. But Smith and Taborn are the standout players here, both for the imaginative way they half-converse, half-spar with their elders and for what they do when they’re on their own. On “QT13,” they construct a crazy clockwork quilt behind Parker and Holland, while their duet on “Organ-Vibes W1” generates a transfixing atmosphere that borders on the psychedelic. This particular territory doesn’t feel uncharted—the Ummagumma-era Pink Floyd was here before, to name just one precursor—but it’s a nice place to revisit.

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Mac Randall

Mac Randall

Mac Randall has been the editor of JazzTimes since May 2018. Prior to that, he wrote regularly for the magazine. He has written about numerous genres of music for a wide variety of publications over the past 30 years, including Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New York Observer, Mojo, and Guitar Aficionado, and he has worked on the editorial staffs of Musician, LAUNCH (now Yahoo! Music), Guitar One, Teaching Music, Music Alive!, and In Tune Monthly. He is the author of two books, Exit Music: The Radiohead Story and 101 Great Playlists. He lives in New York City.