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Robin Holcomb

Robin Holcomb

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Album Review

With a tremulous voice, poetic lyrics, and a fine band, Robin Holcomb put together an impressive debut album. A lot of credit for the distinctive sound of this record must be laid at the feet of organist (and Holcomb's husband) Wayne Horvitz and guitarist Bill Frisell, both alumni of John Zorn's Naked City. The playing of Horvitz and Frisell fits in beautifully with Holcomb's otherworldly voice, one that at times evokes Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins. There are a few absolutely sublime moments on this record, the first of which is "Electrical Storm," a dreamy number with a haunting chord progression and a perfect performance by Holcomb. Her lyrics tend to be almost too impressionistic, but on "Electrical Storm" everything works perfectly. The appropriately named "Waltz" is the high point of the record. It opens with a spooky organ theme, which moves directly to Holcomb's solo piano and vocal statement of the extremely atmospheric and haunting theme before the band enters once again and Frisell lets loose with his best solo of the record. In fact, there is much in common between Holcomb's muse and Frisell's own voice. The nostalgia and melancholy mixed with a healthy dose of unsettling menace is a Frisell trademark, and Holcomb's utilization of this sound as a singer is extremely effective. The countrified "Troy," complete with sawing fiddle and Frisell's twisted licks, is also reminiscent of the roots awareness that the guitarist displays in his solo work. An analysis of this record would not be complete without at least some mention of Doug Wieselman, who contributes clarinet, sax, and guitar. His clarinet lines in particular help add to the darkly beautiful nature of Holcomb's music. All in all, Robin Holcomb's first album is a bit on the inconsistent side, but the sparks of greatness are such that the listener is willing to forgive some of the awkward moments.

Biography

Born: 1954 in Georgia

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Drawing inspiration from her childhood in Georgia, her work among avant-garde musicians in New York, and her stints in both California and New York, Robin Holcomb developed into a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter showcased by the Nonesuch label. After attending the University of Santa Cruz, she moved to New York with her husband, Wayne Horvitz, and co-founded Studio Henry, a performance outlet where she gave poetry readings and concerts. She also wrote big band pieces for the New York Composers...
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Robin Holcomb, Robin Holcomb
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