Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dave Holland and Gordon Beck

My Dear Friend Ken Laster posts below on his encounter with the great Dave Holland. Once again I am envious of my namesake. I don't know Holland's work very well, but I have long been a fan of his magnum opus: Conference of the Birds. I'll quote the judicious Laster here from our brief exchange at the aforementioned post:
I bought that album back in the 70's, and it probably was the one album that got me to 'understand' what free improvisation was about. Its one of those albums where the improvisations stretch out as far as you can go, but yet remains very close to the framework of Holland's composition. It is one of those avant garde sets that is still very accessible.
Well, yes. Conference of the Birds is a brilliant piece of avant garde. The "improvisational stretch" is a lot greater on some numbers than others. Holland plays bass, and around him are Anthony Braxton and Sam Rivers on reeds and flute. These are two champions of free jazz if ever it had champions. Barry Altschul does percussion.

Here is the title piece. It is indescribably delicious. But I will try to describe it. Holland opens with a seductive bass line, making the hair stand up on the back of neck. Only at the end of his run does he let the genie out of the bottle. Then the reeds and flute carry the soul upwards into the heavens.
Dave Holland/Conference of the Birds/Conference of the Bird
All of the album is good. If you don't have Dave Holland's 72 recording in your collection, you don't have a collection.

Holland got his big break when Miles Davis called him over from England. Another English Jazz man who never got that call, but should have, is Gordon Beck. To judge by the two of his recordings that I have acquired, he ought to be a lot more famous. Beck is a piano player and consummate modernist. His 68 recording Gyroscope is astonishing. But his Seven Steps to Heaven, well, that is one that earns his way to the promised land.

It doesn't hurt that Beck does a Wayne Shorter composition. I've never met a Shorter composition I didn't like. Here it is, with Pierrick Pedron on alto, Bruno Rousselet on bass, and Philippe Soirat on drums. It's a very good recording, and one that will set your collection apart.
Gordon Beck/Juju/Seven Steps To Heaven
So enjoy the genius of a couple of limeys. Also: go out and pay for their recordings. Tell 'em I sent ya.

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