Inspired by the work of the great Duke Ellington, and his combination of horns and reeds, bassist and composer Dave Holland formed an octet to investigate a wide range of musical textures and colors. Anchored by his quintet with Chris Potter on tenor and soprano saxophone, Steve Nelson on vibes and marimba, Nate Smith on drums and Robin Eubanks on trombone, he adds Antonio Hart on alto saxophone, Alex Sipiagin on trumpet and Gary Smulyan on baritone saxophone. The album was recorded live during a week long stand at Birdland in New York City. "Pathways" opens the album with deep baritone saxophone leading the melody. Smulyan solos with the rest of the horns filling in for support. The horns riff hard with vibes accenting before trumpet takes over. "How's Never" has a feature for solo bass before the band kicks in. Hart's alto saxophone digs deep in a strong solo, before making way for a cool vibraphone, bass and drums section and an exciting drum solo. Chris Potter and Robin Eubanks are featured on "Sea of Marmara" with Potter's soprano saxophone shimmering like a golden sunrise and then switching to tenor saxophone on "Ebb and Flow" to take a stirring feature propelled by blustery horns. Spacious vibes and bluesy slow baritone saxophone usher in "Blue Jean" with Smulyan channeling the spirits of Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins in a deep and patient solo over lush horn arrangement. "Shadow Dance" is the climax of the album, a lengthy improvisation that slowly builds from marimba and riffing horns to a potent tenor saxophone that Potter builds like a monument in a very exciting fashion. Alto saxophone and drum solos keep the spirits high as the band zooms to the finish line. This was a very exciting and well played album, the performances were polished but had enough of an edge to keep them constantly engaging and exciting. The arrangements were well done and framed the soloists who took advantage of their opportunities to create some very appealing music. Pathways - amazon.com
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