DAVE HOLLAND — Uncharted Territories (review)

DAVE HOLLAND — Uncharted Territories album cover Album · 2018 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
js
Possibly “Uncharted Territories”, and its emphasis on free improvisation, is a bit of a nostalgia trip for Dave Holland. Back in the late 60s, Holland had performed with saxophonist Evan Parker in John Steven’s Spontaneous Music Ensemble, and although Holland would go on to leave the ‘free scene’, Parker made a career of it. Some time in recent years, Holland contacted Parker about the two of them recording some free duets like back in the day. As Dave reflected on this proposed endeavor, possibly he was drawn to another avant-garde memory, the group Circle he performed in with Chick Corea and Anthony Braxton, because when Holland decided to add Craig Taborn and Ches Smith to he and Evan’s recording date, he re-created an ensemble quite similar to the original Circle.

The tracks on “Uncharted Territories” are almost entirely spontaneous improvisations, with just a few tracks featuring some pre-conceived composition. To keep things interesting, the musicians vary the lineups for the sessions into various ensembles of 2,3, or 4 people. The tracks are usually fairly short by free improv standards and feature a wide variety of music. This is a very versatile and talented foursome, so the music can vary from interesting sound sculptures to quiet chamber passages to be-bop gone berserk and all out free jazz explosions. The integrity of the musicians involved shines through as they very carefully interact with each other.

This is a very good modern free jazz album, yet somehow disappointing too. Especially with a modernist like Taborn on board, one might expect something a little different from a classic free session. Electronics are listed in Craig’s instrument arsenal and yet they barely make an appearance. Judging by the musicians and instruments listed, it would be easy to expect some modern sound exploration and compositional constructs, and that does happen occasionally, but as mentioned earlier, this recording may be a lot about Holland’s attempt to re-visit his past.
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