:rarum is ECM's inspired anthology series for which the musicians are given complete editorial freedom to choose their own favourite performances for everyone from the novice to informed and passionate fans of the label. By involving the artists in devising the project, each of these anthologies reflects the character of its maker. This is the music they want the listener to hear, and they explain why in their liner notes.
With three decades of recordings from which to select, Dave Holland chose to focus on the development of his own group music - from the groundbreaking "Conference of the Birds" at the beginning of the 1970s, with Anthony Braxton and Sam Rivers, through to today's highly popular Dave Holland Quintet, with Chris Potter, Robin Eubanks, Steve Nelson and Billy Kilson. There is also music by the Gateway trio with John Abercrombie and Jack DeJohnette. Holland: "I have had the opportunity to document on one label most of the musical projects that have been important to me. This has been not only a business relationship, but also a very personal one as well."
Since 1969, ECM albums have been acclaimed for outstanding music, creative production and exceptional sound quality. Many of the musicians embraced by the :rarum series are amongst the most important improvisers of our era. The richness and diversity of their work on ECM continues to resonate and has changed the way jazz is heard today.
The :rarum series builds into a superlative "library" of jazz on ECM. The first eight :rarum anthologies were released, to international acclaim, in 2002: "It's over 30 years since the first ECM recording was made and under the stewardship of Manfred Eicher's astute musical sensibilities a catalogue of some 800 recordings has accumulated some of the finest jazz recorded during the second half of the 20th century... Selected by the artists themselves, the :rarum series is of enormous importance in revealing the breadth of each artist's work, as much for the converted as the unconverted looking for a window into the remarkable ECM catalogue." - Stuart Nicholson, BBC Music Magazine
Taking the road from Wolverhampton to London, Dave Holland soon found himself an integral part of the capital's free music scene in the middle 1960s. The bassist was discovered by Miles Davis whilst gigging at Ronnie Scott's in 1968, joining the trumpeter's band for three years and launching the main body of a Stateside career.
Now, Dave's accent is fully mid-Atlantic and his presence is imbued with that distinctively American larger-than-life glow. This compilation heralds the second wave of ECM's :rarum series, with tracks chosen by the individual artists, not only from their solo output, but often adding collaborative work as sidemen on the same label. The musicians also provide sleeve notes and privileged access to their personal photo archives.
Holland's relationship with ECM founder Manfred Eicher spans the label's entire existence, occupying both the personal and professional planes. The bassman/composer has highlighted his work as bandleader, apart from the opening onslaught of the Gateway trio's "How's Never". Their surly jazz-rock gives the genre a clean reputation, Jack DeJohnette making aggressive drum rolls, John Abercrombie spiralling guitar lines with caustic abandon, whilst Holland lays down a pugilistic foundation.
Dave started to concentrate on running his quartet and quintet line-ups in the early 1980s, and nearly all of this set comes from the last two decades. Numbers like "You I Love", "Four Winds" and "Homecoming" have become fully embedded as charismatic tunes, and should really have become modern standards by now. The first is a bustling, hyperactive, joint blowing sequence, coming straight out of Ornette, particularly when listening to Steve Coleman's flighty alto unravellings. The second has a slippery, curvaceous melody, with Steve spotlighted once again, this time in a trio setting. The third is the best of all, proudly stomping down the Mingus stairway to heaven.
Holland applies the same kind of dynamism to his solo cello work on "Inception", whilst the current quintet's "The Balance" seems positively cool-school by comparison, the players capitalising on their liberal solo space. Cassandra Wilson intones deeply during "Equality", interpreting a poem by Maya Angelou. Kevin Eubanks stands proud on "Nemesis", his surging solo imparting more of a rock-blues feel. "Prime Directive" is another recent piece, involving the quintet's fast interaction, springily negotiating another substantial theme.
Holland has followed a wise path in choosing a contrasting spread of settings, the standard of work being as high as might be expected from this towering figure. --Martin Longley
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