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Extended Play: Live At Birdland

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Album Review

Shockingly, Extended Play is Dave Holland's first live album for ECM, a label he has been associated with for 30 years! Holland's standing quintet — featuring trombonist Robin Eubanks, saxophonist Chris Potter, drummer Billy Kilson, and vibes and marimba virtuoso Steve Nelson — are, according to today's jazz standards, a veteran ensemble. On this Birdland date from 2001, they offer ample evidence as to why they are one of the most highly regarded ensembles in the music today. The material on this double-disc collection is, predictably enough, mostly taken from the band's studio releases. But that's where predictability ends. Virtually everything here is in wonderfully extended form, with only one tune clocking in under ten minutes. Eubanks' laid-back, low-register agility and rhythmic intervention are combined with the wonderfully varied melodic sensibilities of Potter, whose melodic and dynamic palette is equally rich, offering a line that is nearly fathomless in its melodic possibilities and providing the necessary off-the-ground sensibility required to front one of the most compelling, intricately threaded, and texturally diverse rhythm sections in jazz. As evidenced by the sprawling opener, "The Balance," a Holland composition, the band is a seemingly inseparable amalgam of soloists, all gathered around shifting tempos, striated harmonics, and a chromatic prism that offers no edges, but a variety of hues and shades that is startling. While the entire performance is stunning in its diversity and consistency of inspiration, discipline, and sheer vision, other standouts do include the polyrhythmic and lyrical brilliance of "Claressence" and the breathtaking set closer, "Metamorphos." If ever there were a contender for jazz record of the year, for 2003, Extended Play is it.

Extended Play: Live At Birdland, Dave Holland Quintet
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